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Sunshine Ligustrum Leaf Drop: Causes and Quick Fixes

Why Sunshine Ligustrum Losing Leaves

Sunshine ligustrums are famous for their vibrant and lush green leaves, so it’s normal to get worried when these leaves start falling at an alarming rate.

In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of sunshine ligustrum leaf drop and give tips on how to fix and prevent them. Read on to learn how to save your sunshine ligustrum from being bald!

Why is my sunshine ligustrum losing leaves?

Why is sunshine ligustrum losing leaves
Image: Plant Addicts

Sunshine ligustrum loses leaves due to normal shedding during winter, underwatering, pest infestation or nutrient deficiency. They all lose their foliage because of extreme cold, prolonged sun exposure or temperature fluctuations.

1. Normal Shedding

Normal Shedding
Image: Positive Bloom

Sunshine ligustrums are evergreen shrubs, so it’s normal for them to shed some leaves throughout the year. During winter, it’s normal for your sunshine ligustrum to drop around 30 to 40 leaves. 

This is the plant’s way of preparing for dormancy for the upcoming season. As long as new ones replace the old leaves, this should be one less problem for you.

2. Underwatering

Image: Southern Living
How To Fix: Water your plant consistently.

Sunshine ligustrums need a lot of water, especially during summer, so their leaves can complete their food-making process called photosynthesis and grow. So, when they are underwatered, it inevitably results in leaves dropping. 

This plant relies on water so much that if you don’t water it enough and consistently, it will not only shed off its leaves but also cause the slow death of the plant itself.

Solution: Water your plant consistently.

DifficultyEasy ●●○○○
Things You NeedWatering can

Make sure that your sunshine ligustrum is watered once or twice every week, especially during summer. They prefer moist soil but don’t like to sit in water, so always do the finger test and water only when the top inch of the soil is dry to touch. 

We also recommend watering them consistently every morning. This will give the plant enough time to dry out before sunset and prevent becoming a breeding ground for fungal diseases because of moist stems or leaves.

3. Pest Infestation

Pest Infestation
Image: Harvest Indoor
How To Fix: Remove infested leaves and apply neem oil.

When you see leaves dropping from your sunshine ligustrum, you should also check its undersides for crawling bugs or insects because they might be the culprit for your dilemma. The most common pests attacking ligustrums are scales and nematodes.

Scales are tiny insects that suck out the juices from the leaves and other parts of the plant until they turn brown, wilt and drop. 

On the other hand, root-knot nematodes are tiny roundworms that feed on the roots, which produce round swellings called galls. These galls disrupt the plant’s water and nutrient intake, which results in leaf drop.

You should look for other pests as well such as spider mites, aphids, weevil and rust mites.

Solution: Remove infested leaves and apply neem oil.

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Things You NeedNeem oil
Spray bottle

Removal of the infested leaves is critical to prevent the spread and reduce the number of pests. This should be followed by regularly applying neem oil, a natural pesticide that you can use on the leaves or even on the soil around the plant.

Below are steps on how to apply the neem oil solution.

How To Do:
1. Wear gloves and prepare the neem oil solution. Mix two teaspoons of neem oil with 1 gallon of water.
2. Pour the neem oil solution into the spray bottle. 
3. Spray the neem oil solution on the leaves and soil around the plant. 
4. Repeat the application of the solution every 7 to 10 days or until the pests are gone.

4. Nutrient Deficiency

Nutrient Deficiency
Image: Southern Living
How To Fix: Amend the soil.

The most common nutrient deficiencies that cause its leaves to drop are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium deficiency. When one of these nutrients gets depleted, sunshine ligustrums shed their leaves.

Sunshine ligustrums need nitrogen for growth and phosphorus for energy production. On the other hand, it needs potassium for water regulation and photosynthesis, while magnesium is for chlorophyll production. 

Solution: Amend the soil.

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Things You NeedFertilizer
Watering can
Soil tester

To prevent leaf drop in sunshine ligustrums and avert leaf drop, test the soil and amend it based on the missing nutrient. You can also add mulch afterward to retain moisture and prevent nutrient loss from the ground.

Below are steps to properly amend the soil for your sunshine ligustrum.

How To Do:
1. Take a soil sample and place it in a soil tester device to know the deficient nutrients in the soil.
2. Choose a fertilizer that contains the missing nutrients. 
3. Apply the fertilizer to the soil.
4. Water the soil thoroughly. 
5. Add a one-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and prevent nutrient loss.

5. Extreme Cold

Extreme Cold
Image: Positive Bloom
How To Fix: Protect the plant from the cold.

Although sunshine ligustrums are hardy evergreen shrubs, extreme cold can still damage them and cause their leaves to drop. 

This is because extreme cold freezes the plant’s cell walls and causes them to rupture. When these cell walls are damaged, leaves slowly turn brown and fall off the plant.

Here’s an overview of how frost conditions affect sunshine ligustrums.

FactorEffect on Sunshine Ligustrum
HardinessCan be planted in USDA Zones 6 to 10
Can tolerate temperatures up to -10°F (-23°C)
Young plantsSusceptible to frost damage
ExposurePlants in elevated areas are prone to frost damage
WateringNot recommended during cold months to prevent leaves and branches from freezing
Frost DamageBrown or black spots on leaves and branches

Solution: Protect the plant from the cold.

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Things You NeedBlanket

The best way to solve this issue is to protect the sunshine ligustrum from the cold. This may be done by moving the plant from an exposed to a more sheltered area to prevent freezing or frost damage. 

You can also use protective covers such as blankets, burlap or fleece to minimize frost damage on sunshine ligustrums during cold weather or winter. Make sure to remove the covering in the morning so it will still get enough sunlight for growth. 

6. Prolonged Sun Exposure

Prolonged Sun Exposure
Image: Plant Carer
How To Fix: Move the plant to an area that receives partial sun.

Sunshine ligustrums, as its name suggests, love full sun. Still, prolonged exposure to the harsh sun rays can scorch its leaves and cause them to turn brown and drop to the ground. 

Too much sunlight also causes leaves to lose water faster than they can absorb from the soil. As a result, its leaves are bound to wilt and fall off the plant.

Solution: Move the plant to an area that receives partial sun.

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Things You NeedWatering can
Pruning shears

The first thing you should do is move your sunshine ligustrum to a location where it only receives partial sun. This will protect the plant from the harsh sun rays. 

Afterward, prune your plant to reduce the number of leaves exposed to the sun. Make sure to water your plant regularly to prevent water loss from leaves.

You can also add mulch around the plant to keep the soil cool, retain moisture, and protect the whole plant from the sun.

7. Temperature Fluctuations

Temperature Fluctuations
Image: Positive Bloom
How To Fix: Acclimate the plant to changes in temperature.

Sunshine ligustrum can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, but not when they fluctuate in a heartbeat. 

For instance, when the temperature drops, the leaf cells get damaged by the cold and cause it to drop.

On the other hand, when the temperature increases, the leaves lose water, wilt and fall off.

Solution: Acclimate the plant to changes in temperature.

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Things You NeedWatering can

If the weather gets cold, bringing your sunshine ligustrum indoors at night and during winter is best.

During summer, you can move your plant to an area with partial sun during the hottest part of the day. 

To maintain the plant’s temperature, make sure to water it regularly and add mulch around the plant to keep the soil cool and moist.

Tips on How to Prevent Leaf Drop

Now that you know the causes of sunshine ligustrum leaf drop, here are tips on preventing them from happening.

1. Check soil moisture.

Check soil moisture
Image: Gardener’s Path

Overwater and underwatering cause leaf drip in sunshine ligustrums. So, always check the soil moisture level and ensure it’s getting the right amount of water. 

A good and effective practice would be sticking your finger into the top inch of the soil. Only when it’s dry to touch should you water the plant.

2. Check for pests.

Check for pests
Image: PNW Handbooks

With pest infestation, prevention is better than cure. You should regularly check your sunshine ligustrum, mainly the underside of leaves, for pests like aphids, spider mites and scales. 

Some practical ways of preventing pests in sunshine ligustrums are using insecticidal soap or neem oil or spraying them with water to wash away their eggs. You could also use a systemic insecticide that will kill pests when they try to feed on the plant.

3. Improve soil drainage.

Improve soil drainage
Image: Help Me Compost

When the soil is poorly drained, the plant’s roots get waterlogged, leading to root rot with leaf drop as one of its early symptoms. 

So, it’s best to ensure your soil is well-drained by amending it with organic matter like compost, manure and other fertilizers.

4. Fertilize your plant.

Fertilize your plant
Image: Better Homes & Gardens

To prevent nutrient deficiency, fertilize your sunshine ligustrum during its active growing seasons in spring and summer. 

We recommend using slow-release fertilizers with a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 blend, ideal for evergreen shrubs like sunshine ligustrum.

As you apply the fertilizer around the base of your plant, make sure that it doesn’t get to the leaves. Constantly water the plant thoroughly after feeding it. 

5. Prune your plant.

Prune your plant
Image: Southern Living Plants

Pruning your sunshine ligustrum regularly will help prevent leaf drop. When these dead or damaged leaves are removed, they can no longer attract pests or diseases that cause leaf drop.

It will also rejuvenate the plant as the primary stressor is removed and will help promote healthy growth of the whole plant.

FAQs on Sunshine Ligustrum Losing Leaves

How much leaf drop is considered normal?

It is usual for plants to shed around 30 to 40 leaves per day during winter. This is the plant’s way of preparing for dormancy and replenishing the old leaves with new ones.

Does sunshine ligustrum have an invasive nature?

Sunshine ligustrum is not an invasive plant since it is a sterile variety that does not produce viable seeds. As a result, it does not spread aggressively wherever it is planted.

Will grow lights stop my sunshine ligustrum from dropping leaves?

Grow lights help prevent leaf drop in sunshine ligustrums when the cause is a lack of sunlight.
Although it can provide supplemental sunlight, it is still not a viable replacement for direct sunlight.

How often should I water my ligustrum?

You should water your ligustrum once every nine days with at least 0.8 cups.

What grows perfectly with sunshine ligustrum?

Sunshine ligustrum grows perfectly with Knock Out Roses, Dwarf Gardenias, Indian Hawthorn, Liriope, Japanese Maples, Boxwood, Hostas and Encore Azaleas. They have similar growing conditions and will provide a colorful landscape for gardens.

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