Mystery Plant Death

We were at a home where the owner asked us to replace one of their dead goshiki osmanthus. It was in a grouping of three by the front of the home. I wanted to know why it died and the other two were thriving… was it nutrition? Was it a disease? What could be done so this did not happen again?

root rot in shrubs Gainesville, GA
Here is the grouping of three goshiki osmanthus shrubs. Why is one dead while the other two are OK?
goshiki osmanthus in Dahlonega GA
We first cut back the stems to see the base of the shrub.

We pulled it out and sure enough it was completely dead. The main roots were still there but they were black. All the feeder roots were gone.

One of our employees, Shaquan, pulled out the dead stump and posed for this photo showing the black/dark brown roots. This color is an indication of rot.

Rot often occurs when plants sit in moist soil. Plants die for many reasons but we could tell that a poor-quality plant was not the cause. These shrubs had been there for many years. It was also planted properly or this would have occurred many years ago. That led us to believe it was an environmental issue.

As I stood further away and looked at the front of the house, another employee, Kait, pointed something out –

Space under front porch behind the osmanthus shrubs.

There is a space under the front porch behind the other two osmanthus but not behind the one that died. That lead me to believe it must be that the dead plant had no space behind it so any rain water that fell, had nowhere to go except into the planting hole with the root ball. If the soil all around it was well drained soil, this might have happened. But soil up next to a house is usually compacted and not fast-draining.

I then looked up at the house and noticed that the dead shrub was right underneath the corner of 2 gutters. When we get a huge rain event, the water over shoots the gutters and falls right into the space where the goshiki is trying to live. As we all know, plants need water and air to live. If there is too much water sitting in one space, the roots have no air and cannot breathe. They die.

Gutters draining on shrubs. Gainesville, GA
Two gutters are constantly draining water onto the dead shrub.

Since we cannot fix the drainage by the house (not what the client wanted to do at the time), what was our solution? I notified the homeowner of the situation and that we were going to plant it higher and use lots of Permatil for drainage.

The soil is mixed in with Permatil for drainage. I uncovered the root ball for this picture but we did cover up the roots with mulch once we were finished.


Root rot is a serious issue that can devastate your shrubs if not promptly and properly addressed. By understanding the causes and symptoms of root rot, you can take proactive steps to prevent it from taking hold in your garden. Ensuring proper drainage, avoiding overwatering, and selecting resistant varieties are key strategies in maintaining healthy shrubs. If root rot does occur, early detection and appropriate treatment can save your plants. Remember, a healthy garden starts with healthy roots, so give your shrubs the foundation they need to thrive. Happy gardening!

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