What’s wrong with my boxwoods? Gardeners ask Texas A&M experts

THE: Boxwoods are evergreen, broad-leaf shrubs often used in the landscape. The plant is susceptible to crown and root rot caused by the pathogen Phytophthora sp.

Phytophthora is a water mold that can survive for years in the soil. Above-ground symptoms include wilting of the foliage. The leaves will then fade to a light green and eventually turn tan and drop from the plant. Below-ground, the root system will have a water-logged appearance and the outer layer of the roots will slough off. The bark of the stem at the soil line will split, which negatively affects water and nutrient transport. Poor drainage and over watering create conditions conducive to disease development.

Good cultural practices will help reduce infection: proper planting depth and spacing, proper fertilization and irrigation, and amending soils with compost. Fungicide applications can help protect the plant from the pathogen, they do not eliminate it.

Q: Any ideas what may be ailing my beautyberry? It is new to me, it’s in a 3-gallon pot and I was looking forward to planting native. However, I’m concerned about planting it if it has a disease that may spread.

The plant does not have a disease, but the foliage is showing signs of a long, hot growing season.

Fruit is abundant and displays its natural purple color. Beautyberry is a deciduous shrub and will shed its leaves now that the days are getting cooler and day length is shorter. Fall is a great time to transplant it from that 3-gallon container into your garden.

Paul Winski

Q: How do I get my soil tested?

THE: Soil testing has been a common question this month. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offers professional, diagnostic soil testing to check for nutrient deficiencies with your vegetables, lawn, fruit trees, and flowers. It is an easy and inexpensive process.

Analysis can give insight into what soil nutrients are available to plants in your yard, helping to determine fertilizer needs. You do not want to do a soil test shortly after amendments or fertilizer are applied. For gardens, testing is recommended close to planting time. That means, unless you plan on a winter garden, testing can wait until the end of the year. Test turfgrass in February or March.

Visit soiltesting.tamu.edu and choose the Urban Soil Submittal form. Your information goes on the front page, instructions are on the back. Unless you have been recommended to test for micronutrients, the $12 Routine Analysis will do. These tests for nutrients NPK (Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium) and a few others. Payment can be mailed with the sample or paid online. Results usually take less than a week and provide the recommended NPK fertilizer needed for your sample. Testing is recommended if not done previously, or every 3 years. You may want to avoid submitting tests in January as that is the soil lab’s busiest time of the year.

Q: Will an agapanthus transplant survive without the total bulb? Lots of tubers, but partial bulb.

THE: Agapanthus (Agapanthus africanus) is an herbaceous evergreen perennial, which means it can die back to the ground in cold temperatures but will return. Flower stalks can grow up to 4 feet tall. This plant can be divided by digging up the entire bunch and splitting with a shovel. In this process, bulbs will be cut. It should be fine, but if concerned with a larger bulb cut, you can let it heal over a little before planting. If there are roots on the bulb, it has life. You can also dig just a section on the outer edge without removing it all from the ground. Another technique is to shake off the excess soil of the bunch and pry apart with your hands. Mound soil up and spread roots out and be sure not to plant too deep. The top of the bulb should be above the soil.

Agapanthus can be divided and transplanted now for spring blooms. However, thinning may decrease bloom quantity for a couple of years. Mulch will help reduce weeds, retain moisture, and provide protection from potential cold weather.

Brandi Keller