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Tea Olive Trees: Troubleshooting 4 Common Problems

Tea Olive Trees: Troubleshooting 4 Common Problems

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Fragrant tea olives are an asset in any landscape. They feature evergreen foliage and fragrant flowers, plus they’re tough, resilient, drought tolerant, and disease and pest resistant. They’re also extremely versatile and can be grown as specimen trees, hedges, green screens or shrub borders.

Like any plant, tea olives can experience problems. If they’re under stress or planted in inappropriate settings, they’re prone to four common problems. Let’s look at these potential issues and ways to treat them:

  1. Canker. Caused by the botryosphaeria fungus, canker causes wilting, dieback and dark spots on the bark. Sometimes called drought canker, it often appears after plants have been stressed by dry conditions, especially if they’re not fully established. There are no chemical treatments, so care and prevention are the best cures. Remove wilted leaves, prune severely affected branches, make sure newly planted tea olives receive about 1 inch of water a week until they’re fully established, and apply a basic fertilizer to provide the nutrients necessary for recovery.
  2. Leaf spot. Caused by the cercospora fungus, leaf spot is characterized by tan or light brown spots with dark borders, and black flecks of fungus may appear in the center. While leaf spot usually isn’t fatal, it’s unattractive and can in severe cases lead to significant leaf loss. To prevent its spread, remove damaged leaves and heavily infected branches, and if necessary, treat it with a plant fungicide.
  3. Root rot. Generally caused by overwatering, root rot can also occur in tea olives planted in poor-draining clay soils or soggy locations. Leaves may wilt, fade, turn yellow and drop off, and bark at the soil line may be unnaturally dark. Mild cases can be treated by watering less and applying a mild systemic fungicide to reduce the spread of fungi that contribute to root rot. Moving plants to a better location and replanting them in clean, uncontaminated, well-draining soil may help. If root rot is advanced, plants may struggle along for several seasons, but they’re unlikely to survive.
  4. Scale. Tiny scale insects can cause significant damage if left untreated. Infestations appear as yellow spots on the leaf surface and a white powdery substance (which is the insect colony) on the underside. If the problem is minor, simply remove damaged leaves or prune affected branches. If the infestation is severe, use a horticultural oil spray formulated to eliminate scale insects.

Many of these problems can be prevented if you take the time to choose varieties suited to your climate and planting conditions, topics we’ve discussed elsewhere. The earlier you spot a problem and take action, the greater the likelihood you’ll be able to minimize damage and restore your tea olives to full health. Grown in the right conditions, tea olives are lovely, fragrant plants that require minimal care.

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