Faithful reader, Lisa, writes, “I have a hedge of cherry laurels that is looking quite ill. The malady started as holes in the leaves, then the leaves turned yellowish, and now they are falling off. The whole thing is getting bare and pitiful looking. Is it a buggy infestation or something else?”
Grumpy’s 127% Guaranteed Correct Answer: Unless your next door neighbor has gotten bored with shooting up stop signs and turned his attention to your bushes, the malady is a bacterial leaf spot that causes a condition called “shot hole.” All kinds of cherry laurel are susceptible. Wet weather favors this disease. It first shows up as rounded, reddish-brown spots with dark purple margins. Then the leaf tissue in the centers of the spots dies and drops out, leaving holes that look like they came from a shotgun.
Fortunately, shot holes are a lot easier for a cherry laurel to recover from than a person. The first thing to do is rake up and dispose of all infected cherry laurel leaves that have fallen to the ground. Second, avoid overhead watering with sprinklers, as this helps to spread the bacteria. Finally, spray your plants according to label directions with a fungicide called Bonide Mancozeb. You can get this at garden centers or from amazon.com.