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Should I be concerned about my ruby spice?

by | Mar 29, 2010 | Resources, Market News, Ask Pahl's Market

I planted a clethra ruby spice last summer. It is a very late bush to begin growing in the Spring. I almost dug it up as it looked dead. Now, leaves are sprouting from halfway down the stems, but nothing up further. Do I need to trim it back? Is this something to be done each spring, or did something bad happen over the winter? It was very dry in Jan/Feb. The ends of the branches look dead and not very pleasing, but I am afraid that maybe they just haven’t sprouted yet.

Dear Kathy,
Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’ is a beautiful addition to any landscape with the benefits of attracting butterflies and hummingbirds! What you are describing is normal for this variety and is too early to be concerned. Ruby Spice may be slow to establish and some twig tip dieback may occur during the first winter. This shrub will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, light pruning can be done in the late winter early spring; heavier pruning can be performed immediately after flowering to maintain shape. Each spring before growth begins, you may choose to apply an all-purpose fertilizer, following label directions. Keep well watered until plant is fully established.  Be sure the soil is moist before the ground freezes in fall. Once the shrub is established, usually by the third year, water only in times of drought.

• Does best in light shade in moist, well-drained soil.
• Generally avoid full sun in a very dry location.
• Tolerates clay soils.
• Does best in a compost-enhanced soil.
• Requires an acid soil.

Hope this helps.


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  1. Kathryn Smith

    I have a Ruby Spice plant, that I got 3 weeks ago. I planted it in Good soil. Plus some Miracle grow potting soil. We got a frost after it was in the ground for a night. It had very nice leaves on the top grouped up and some on another branch too. Then the frost, and all leaves turned black. Branches turned dead looking. I’m watering now as Temps in 90s daytime for about a week. Every other day watering Good in AM. Will it Cone Back to life? Or did frost get it all dead now? What can I do to revive it? Is it just a wait and see kinda thing?

    • nathan briones

      Hi Kathryn, based on your description it sounds like it may be dead, but it’s hard to say without seeing it. Sometimes plants are able to come back after frost damage. Do you have a photo that you could send us so we can take a look? Do you also have the genus species name? Is this a perennial? Thanks!


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