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How To Bring Back An Ailing Bush Or Shrub

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Do you have a bush or shrub that appears to be dying back and struggling? Often, with a little tender love and care, you can revive the bush and have it looking alive and fresh again within a few growing seasons. Here's how to approach this project.

Fertilize the bush over the winter

Apply fertilizer to the soil around the bush while it is dormant during the late winter or early spring months. This way, the nutrients the bush needs will be present in the soil as it starts to revive itself in the spring. You can purchase an all-purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer at your local home improvement store. Dilute it according to package instructions, and make sure you spread it in a big circle around the shrub rather than just pouring it near the trunk. This way, it will have more contact with the root system.

Prune away dead branches

This must also be done while the bush is dormant. If you wait until too late in the spring, you'll be causing the bush too much stress by pruning it. During the winter when the vascular tissues are less active, the bush will "bleed" less during pruning.

Remove any branches that appear to be damaged, old, or covered in fungus. Always cut the branches about an inch out from their base rather than flat against the trunk. The vascular tissue is very dense in the first inch or so of the branch, so by leaving this part behind, you're causing the bush less stress. When spring comes, the bush will thrive since there are no longer dead, decaying branches leeching nutrients away from the younger, living branches.

Check for signs of a fungal infection

Many times when a shrub or bush begins to due back, it's because it is infected with a fungal disease. Do you notice any dark or fuzzy spots on the leaves or twigs? Are there fungal mats on the trunk or large branches, or do you spot "mushrooms" growing near the shrub's base? If the disease is not too far along, spraying the bush with fungicides should help. You can buy these products at a home improvement store and apply them according to label instructions. Also make sure you remove the most obviously infected branches when pruning. Clean up any fallen leaves promptly as they may contain fungal spores that could re-infect the shrub.

If you're struggling to bring your shrub back to life, contact a landscaping professional. They may be able to better determine what, exactly, is wrong with your bush, and recommend an effective treatment process.