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Hi all, I’m not a very experienced gardener and I have been having some issues with my Daphnes the past few months or so and I’m wondering if anyone can help me out. Half of them are planted straight into the ground (soil is clay based but planted into large holes, used gypsum to breakdown clay before planting and planted with good quality soil mixed with organic compost) and half are planted in a raised garden bed. They have been there for over a year now but some of them are starting to get yellow leaves that are dropping off and some have weird brown spots and holes on the leaves. Can anyone help me understand what might be going on? I water them maybe once a week and also use seasol every few weeks. I’m hoping it’s not brown spot but that’s the only thing I can think of. Thank you!  

Last edited: 05 December 2017 21:34:02

Daphnes are notoriously difficult to grow but there are some general guidelines. You don't say what variety yours are or what your soil pH is but you need to aim for slightly alkaline conditions. I don't know what seasol is, why are you adding it? When you water, check the soil first, it needs to stay moist but never waterlogged. Your plants may have been exposed to cold winds - we have certainly had bitter blasts here recently - and they don't like that either. Don't despair, yours don't look bad to me, but check on your care and think about protection if it gets very cold.

One thing that might be a problem. You say you dug big planting holes into clay. Are you sure that water is not pooling in them from the surrounding clay? Don't disturb your plants. Dig a similar hole in the same ground nearby and leave it open. If water gathers in it, that is your problem.

Thanks so much for your response Posy. I’ll post a picture of the 2 types I have. Seasol is a product that helps to maintain the quality of the soil; it’s not a fertiliser. Because we have clay soil we’ve been told it’s very difficult to grow plants so maintaining good quality soil is a must. The things is that when the top of the soil drys it goes quite hard and cracked (I’m guessing from the clay) so it’s difficult for me to check how wet it is underneath. I have never checked the pH however; I’ll get onto that.

We did dig large planting holes but I wouldn’t say excessive. Probably twice the size of the plants so we could give them good soil to grow into instead of the clay. I’ll check on that as well. I’m from Australia and its been very hot lately, then we had 3 days straight of rain. It does get quite windy down the side of the house  may be upsetting them. I’ll keep an eye on them and see how they go. Some of them are perfectly fine and happy and then there’s the others that don’t look so great. We’ll see.

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As suggested, your soil needs looking into. Especially when you mention cracking and drying conditions over warm periods. A classic sign of clay based soils. I don't think you have top dressed enough compost or similar. When shrubs are young, they do not have a rain shadow over their base areas, and it usually means they feel the drastic changes to temperatures. This over time weakens the roots and the general growth. The plant looking a bit stressed, hence the blemishes, but not serious.

Because it's not ideal to disturb them, I think you should try to rake in a really generous layer of compost and do this again in 6 months' time. Also, help it along by feeding it iron sequestrene. Will hopefully help it to soak up nutrients. Not sure where you planted them but they can benefit from a bit of shade too and when they're suffering, shade is always better than sun in general.

Seasol is apparently a seaweed based liquid fertiliser ; never heard of it myself .

Daphne roots need cool moist conditions and a humus rich soil . Even though some originate from warmer climes than ours , I think they are more amenable to dappled shade ; sort of a woodland condition for optimum growth .

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My Goodness! I didn't realise you are in Australia!  Most of the people on this site are UK based so you may need to search for some local experience. However, I do know clay soil all too well and the key thing is to introduce organic material to improve it. Organic material includes all sorts of well rotted muck - stable waste, farmyard waste, shop bought and home made compost. You should also add grit . In bare ground you can tip this on and dig it in but around your shrubs you apply it as a mulch. When the soil is just right, pile a layer of mulch about 3 - 4 inches thick right round the base and over the root area. Don't let it touch the stems, though. It will make its own way into the soil and improve every bit of it, nutrients, texture, drainage, watering. Do this two or three times a year. I would only feed once or twice a year.

Your plant label quite clearly suggests full sun and it will be designed for the Australian market but you could try shading the root area of one or two as an experiment. They hate being dug up and moved so don't try that unless you get desperate. Let us know how you get on!

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