The Simple Fix That’ll Save A Sweetspire With Browning Leaves

The Simple Fix That'll Save A Sweetspire With Browning Leaves

A thriving garden is a spectacular sight with its colorful flowers and healthy green leaves. If your plants start showing signs of disease or poor health, you can often tell something is wrong by checking the vibrancy of their colors. Browning leaves are a notorious symptom of a bigger problem, and depending on the plant, it could indicate anything from vitamin deficiencies to pest infestation. In the case of the Virginia sweetspire, browning leaves usually mean sun damage. This plant can grow in both direct sunlight and shade, so finding the right balance is crucial to prevent brown leaves and keep your plant healthy.

While it’s true that plants need sunlight to make their food, too much of it can harm them. Virginia sweetspire, also known as Virginia willow, requires four hours of sunlight every day and thrives in partial sun and shade. Too much direct sunlight can cause the leaves to get sunburnt, which can lead to stunted growth in the plant. On the bright side, fixing your damaged leaves is easy – applying some shade is all it takes. There are many creative ways to shield your plant from the sun and the intense summer heat.

Grow tall companion plants around the Virginia sweetspire to shade it

Family planting a tree

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Virginia sweetspire is a short bush with long, narrow leaves and flowers. When planted in full sunlight, with no shade in sight, they are susceptible to leaf browning on particularly sunny days. By planting companion plants to grow alongside them and shade them, you’d be saving the shrub from a lot of potential damage, especially if you live in a warm region.

The best companion plants that benefit your sweetspire are the river birch (Betula nigra) and the bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) trees. River birch grows to be about 40 to 60 feet tall, and bald cypress trees 50 to 70 feet, more than enough height to shade your 4 to 8-foot tall Virginia sweetspire. Both of these trees are low-maintenance, heat-tolerant, and love being in the sun — perfect matches for your sweetspire.

If you’re thinking of using companion planting as a remedy to your sweetspire’s sun problem, then you’ll have to cough up some money to buy the young trees, and they get more expensive the older and taller they are. A 5 to 6-foot tall river birch tree would set you back around $190, while a bald cypress of the same height would be around $66.

Use a shade cloth or shade sail to cover your sweetspire

Shade sails over garden plants

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Virginia sweetspire actually grows well in full sun, but the problem arises during those long, hot, sunny days. If you don’t want to go planting a whole tree in order to shade your shrub, you can opt for a cheaper and less intense option like erecting a shade sail or using a shade cloth.

Shade cloths are made of woven polyethylene material. This material blocks as much sunlight as you want because they’re customizable depending on the requirements of your plant. You can pick out the exact shade density you need. Shade cloths are also breathable, and they can be watered through, meaning your sweetspire would be getting all the nutrition it needs without risking sun damage on a boiling day.

Similarly, a shade sail is simply a shade cloth that’s been attached to a post like an awning and spread over the garden. Shade cloths and sails are very durable and effective in providing shade. They can also be removed and replaced in the garden at will, which makes their convenience level even higher.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.