Weigela is a fast-growing shrub that’s easy to care for. It has spectacular blooms during the spring, and can bloom in the summer as well – but if your Weigela looks dead there are a few different reasons and fixes.
The good news is this shrub is resilient. Most cases of Weigela dieback can be reversed. You’ll have your Weigla looking good again with the proper time and care.
The Weigela is a member of the honeysuckle family. Like other plants in the honeysuckle family, Weigela has tubular-shaped flowers. They are wonderful for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies, which makes them a popular addition to gardens and landscapes.
There are a wide variety of Weigela species, with colors ranging from white and creamy to nearly black. They are also available in many sizes, so there’s sure to be a species that fits your needs.
The smallest varieties are 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide at maturity. The largest species can grow up to 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide.
They are native to Asia, and hardy in US zones 4-8. Most varieties prefer full sun, but will also do well with partial shade. Species with gold, chartreuse or purple foliage will perform best in full sun. Variegated foliage varieties can burn in full sun.
Over or under watering, blight, and pest infestations are the most common causes of an unhealthy Weigela.
Over or under-watering a Weigela is a common cause of a dead appearance or dieback.
If your Weigela’s leaves are becoming brown and dry, it’s likely under-watered. Underwatering dehydrates the plant, causing the leaves to become brittle and brown.
You can check to see if your Weigela is getting adequate water, and check the soil. If the first two inches are dry, your plant is underwatered. You can use a moisture meter for confirmation that this is the issue.
Overwatering or poorly draining soil leads to waterlogging and is a common issue amongst many other plants such as Oleander and Plumeria. Over time, the constant moisture breeds fungus, which causes root rot.
Over and under watering will cause the leaves to turn brown. However, overwatering will cause the leaves to become droopy, while underwatering causes them to become dry and brittle.
If overwatering is the cause, you may also notice a foul smell coming from the soil.
To confirm that overwatering is the problem, check the soil with your fingers. If the soil is wet at 1/2 an inch, then the plant is overwatered. You’ll need to water only when the top 1-2 inches of soil is dry.
You may also need to add compost or perlite to the soil to improve drainage.
How to Water Your Weigela
If your Weigela isn’t receiving a high amount of rainfall, you’ll need to deep water once or twice a week. Adding organic mulch can help prevent the water from evaporating during the summer months.
To see if your Weigela needs water, check the soil with your finger or a moisture meter. If more than the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water the plant. It’s best to water your Weigela in the early morning, so the leaves can dry before they get significant sun.
Twig Blight in Weigela
The Weigela is also susceptible to the fungal infection twig blight. As the name suggests, this fungus affects the tips of the branches. The twigs, or tips of the branches, become brown.
Severe cases of twig blight can even kill the Weigela. Plants older than 5 years are not susceptible to blight.
Treating Twig Blight
Proper trimming when blight appears can stop it from progressing. To prevent or control blight, do not wet the leaves when watering your Weigela.
You can spray the plant with a copper or lime sulfur fungicide. This is most effective when the first signs of blight appear. Increasing air circulation by aerating the soil around the plant can also help.
Unfortunately, if the infection is severe, you’ll need to destroy the infected plants to prevent the blight from spreading. Do this in the early spring.
Frost damage can appear very similar to twig blight. Just like blight, the tips of the branches will become brown and appear dead.
Frost damage occurs when water freezes inside the plant, causing cell damage.
Treating Frost Damage
It can be tempting to prune the dead portions immediately. However, you shouldn’t remove the frost damage until there’s no more risk of frost. If the plant is healthy, it should bounce back with little help.
In the spring, after the last frost has occurred, you can trim away any damaged portions of the Weigela. This will allow the plant to begin growing and blooming during the spring months.
There are several causes of yellowing leaves in the Weigela. These include aphid and mealybug infestations, and fungal leaf spot disease.
Weigelas are susceptible to aphids and mealybug infestations. These pests can cause the Weigelas leaves to turn yellow.
Aphids are small flying insects that feed on the sap from plants, including the Weigela. Honeydew can confirm an aphid infestation (not the plant in this case). Honeydew is a sugary liquid waste excreted by aphids.
Aphids will feed on the leaves of the plant, which causes them to turn yellow. You may also notice curling of the leaves. The aphids cause the leaves to curl to give them a hiding place.
Treating Aphid Infestation
Pruning the infested leaves of your Weigela can control the infestation. You can also use a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to eliminate aphids. This can be time-consuming if they have infested a large area of your plant, however.
Another option is to work with natural predators of aphids, including wasps and ladybugs.
Controlling ants can also help treat an aphid infestation because ants carry the aphid eggs to the plants.
Mealybugs are pests that have a cotton-like growth around their body and spines around their edges. They tend to gather on stems and leaves, causing them to look like a mass of cotton.
Like aphids, mealybugs suck the sap from the plant. They also cause the Weigelas leaves to turn yellow, and stunt it’s growth.
Mealybugs are tiny pests covered in cotton-like outgrowth with spines around the edges. Mealybugs gather around the stems and leaves, looking like a cottony mass.
To eliminate mealybugs, you’ll need to spray the infested plants with neem oil two to three times a day every 10 days.
During the winter, spray the plants with horticulture oil. This will eliminate eggs, which can prevent a spring infestation.
Fungal leaf spot disease in Weigela
Leaf spot disease is caused by a fungus. This fungus spreads via mold spores, affecting the leaves. The leaves begin by turning yellow or brown. Eventually, they are covered in black spots.
Treating Leaf Spot Disease
The best way to treat leaf spot disease is to use a leaf spray in the early spring. This will prevent the disease from developing on your Weigela. You can then add fertilizer. This helps encourage new growth.
If your Weigela appears dead due to wilting, it’s probably the fungal disease Verticillium wilt. You may also notice scorched leaf margins with this disease.
Fungal spores will clog the plant’s vessels. This creates a blockage, so your plant can’t get the resources it needs. Essentially, some areas of the plant are starving due to a lack of water and nutrients.
Weigela wilts due to a lack of sufficient nutrients. Weigela plants infected by Verticillium wilt get scorched on the leaf margins.
Some cultivators are resilient to Verticillium wilt. Proper care and nutrient-rich soil can help prevent the disease.
You need to select Weigela cultivars that are resistant to Verticillium wilt disease. If you care for your Weigela properly, the plant won’t run into such issues.
Why is my Weigela not blooming?
The last reason your Weigela may appear to be dead is that it’s simply not blooming. This typically occurs when the plant doesn’t get enough sunlight.
Full sun is best for most varieties of Weigela, although variegated varieties can scorch in full sunlight.
Weigela fails to bloom if the plant doesn’t get enough sunlight. You can expect plenty of blossoms if you planted your Weigela in an area with full sun.
Final Thoughts on Unhealthy Weigela
The Weigla is a low-maintenance forgiving plant, which makes it great for beginning gardeners. Its beautiful spring blooms make it a great ornamental shrub.
If your Weigela appears to be dying, chances are you can save the plant. Simpy determine the problem, and follow the steps mentioned above. If the worst happens, and the Weigela isn’t going to survive, you can propagate the Weigela via branch cuttings.