Ask Burton: Q: I planted a row of hollies at my property line to cut down on road noise, and I really want them to grow vigorously this year – which they did NOT do last year. Additionally, my purple loropetalum isn’t very purple – it’s got a lot of yellowing leaves. How can I get them to do what I want?

A: Proper nutrition matters. The thick clay soil of our area has some good points, but it tends close to zero on available nitrogen (necessary for vigorous green growth) and both our soil and water is high pH, making certain acid-loving plants like that purple loropetalum not take iron in well, stunting growth and making the plant show poor color.

Feed all your common trees and shrubs in our area with our Covington’s Tree & Shrub Food at the rate of 1 cup of fertilizer per 5′ x 5′ area of your flowerbeds, and in addition, give those loropetalums a generous application of soil sulfur – half a cup at a time per 5′ x 5′ area of bed, and add a modest amount of sulfur each time you apply normal fertilizer to the plants to keep the soil in the area more acidic. You can also apply ferti-lome Soil Acidifier plus Iron to the bed to speed the process – the combination of acid-forming materials, quickly available iron, and a good normal fertilizer would be the fastest way to return the loropetalum to proper color.

Burton specializes in diagnosing and solving plant problems. If you have a question for Burton, please email him at and include photos showing the problem.