Question About Tea Olive Demise

Filed Under: Watering, Shrubs · Keywords: Up, Plant, Plants, Shade, Hi, Tree, Hydrangea, Trees, Care, Water, Watering, Shrubs, November, April, Drainage, My, May, Deer · 1655 Views
I live in zone 7, Brevard North Carolina, and a couple of years ago I planted half a dozen gallon-sized plants to serve, eventually, as a hedge/property line barrier. They were planted in sporadic shade location, parallel with and within three or four feet of a row of mature PeeGee Hydrangea trees. They were planted with care, and supported with supplemental watering for the first few months. At first they grew as expected, during the Summer. As I am a seasonal resident, the shrubs were left unattended from November through April. The location usually receives plenty of precipitation, but has good drainage. On my return in May, all but one had died back, leaving only dry sticks where the lush plants had been. Since I don't know why they died, dare I replant some more this Summer, and try again? Note: I understand that these osmanthus are supposedly deer resistant, but...should I have surrounded them with wire to protect from our heavy deer population? (I'm not here in Winter, to spray deer deterrent.)


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Answer #2 · Mary Thompson's Answer · Hi, John! Thanks for your quick response. The osmanthus were planted in Summer of 2014, and they died the Winter of 2014-2015, so any post mortem evidence is long gone. There are actually two survivors trying to resprout, One is so puny (only a few inches, two Summers later) that it would have to be replaced. The other, though, has a long 'whip' of growth with healthy leaves, but only a few of them. The more I think of it, the more I am convinced that deer browsing or the combination of deer browsing and cold temperatures were the cause of death. If I am able to find half a dozen more of these plants at our local Lowe's, I may try again, and protect them with sturdy wire surrounds and appropriate mulch, come Winter.. I love the scent of tea olives almost as much as gardenia, which we can't grow year 'round in this climate zone. By the way, we know that deer frequent the area in which the osmanthus were planted. They keep the accompanying PeeGee hydrangea trees cleaned up to a canopy beginning about five or six feet from the ground!)


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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Mary-Before purchasing more plants from the Box stores I would first check with your local quality nursery. Many times the box stores will carry plants that look nice but are not suited for a particular areas temperatures. Your quality nurseries will carry or know which cultivars will survive in your location. Mulching will help but winters drying sun and wind is what causes the most damage especially on young plants. They would need to be protected from the freezing winds at least for the first few years. You may want to ask your nursery or garden center about the Osmanthus x fortunei 'Fruitlandii'. This is a hybrid between your Osmanthus fragrans and the hardier Osmanthus heterophyllus. Flower, fragrance, and size is the same but has been more hardy I found when growing in many cooler areas of North Carolina. I also found this cultivar has been proven somewhat more deer resistant also although again as you know deer will eat anything if their favorite foods are scarce. Let me know how you make out with new plants. The one plant with long growth can be cut back to help with developing more branching.

3 years ago ·
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Mary Thompson

Mary Thompson · Gardenality Seed · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
Again, thanks, John, for such a speedy reply! I will take your advice and seek out the Osmanthus x fortunei "Fruitlandii" at the nearest quality nursery. I'll tip prune the whippy survivor, and plan on sheltering any new plantings from deer and cold winter winds. Will let you know how it works out.

3 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
You're very welcome. Definitely let me know how you make out and if you were able to speak to a nursery regarding a more cold hardy variety. This could help others when looking for a nice plant such as this for their location.

3 years ago ·
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Answer #1 · Maple Tree's Answer · Hi Mary-With no foliage on the plants at this time it may be hard to know what killed the tea olives. Is there green foliage on the one plant that is still living? If so are any of the leaves or stems damaged that may look like deer had been chewing on them? Are their any leaves or stem parts that were on the ground that may have indications that deer had been gazing there? Are there any hoof prints in the soil that may indicate deer were present. If there were leaves on the ground were they brown or black in color which they would have turned if damaged by freezing temperatures. The tea olive varieties are not normally bothered by deer but in times of little food especially evergreen shrubs the deer will eat any plant available. You might check the plants to make sure they are dead. You can scratch off small spots of the outer bark on stems and check the color of the underlying tissue. If the tissue is green under the outer bark the shrub is still alive. If brown the stem is dead. If eaten by deer the stem will most likely sprout new foliage in time. The other thing that may have killed these plants is the winter freezing temperatures. Young shrubs are more susceptible to winter damage than more established plants. You live in hardiness zone 7a which can easily have temperatures low enough to damage or kill several varieties of tea olives. Most varieties are hardy to zone 7b-8a. I looked and found your location had several weeks that had temperatures well below freezing for a couple of weeks at a time. Even if the temperatures are not extemely cold, temperatures below freezing for an extended period of time can damage or kill this plant. These plants can also be damaged with quick drastic changes in temperatures such as 30 or 40 degree temperatures that suddenly drop into the low 20s. Too much or too little water can also kill the tea olive. It sounds as though these plants did well last summer and with the rains last winter too little water most likely isn't the problem. If your soil is well draining and doesn't puddle in this area too much water I'm assuming wouldn't be the problem either. To do well the tea olive needs 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day if the hydrangeas are shading these plants most of the day they may not grow as healthy as they should but I'm thinking this should not have killed them during the winter months as they had grown well all last year. Are the leaves on the one plant that is still living a nice green and healthy looking? If you see anything such as damage, spotting, browning, or discoloration on its leaves let me know. If so you can also upload a close up picture of this plant. This may possibly indicate a problem that had taken out the other plants.
Deer most likely would have damaged these plants but I'm thinking if still alive they have a good chance of sprouting new growth. After checking to see if they are still alive you find they are dead I'm thinking cold winter temperatures may have been the problem. Let me know if you feel any of these things may have been the problem or if you find any other indications of damage that may help lead us to the reason for these plants dying.

Please don't hesitate to ask any other questions.

John)



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