En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Tuesday - April 29, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Planting, Pruning, Trees
Title: Live oak leaves not dropping from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We had a 65 gallon live oak planted last October. We watered it regularly and it was green all through the winter. In March the leaves started to turn brown but never dropped, as they should have. New branches are sprouting and new leaves are growing, but not on any of the existing branches. Could this be a normal case of transplant shock, especially, given that we had a harsh winter with the couple of freezes? Should we be concerned and will pruning it help to spur new growth? Thanks,

ANSWER:

First, that was a really big tree to transplant, and we would wish that you had waited until it was a little bit colder before you planted it, especially since we had a late hot summer. We recommend that woody plants (trees and shrubs) be transplanted only in the coolest part of the year, which is ordinarily December and January. One of the main reasons for this is the possibility of Oak Wilt being contracted by visits from sap-feeding nitidulid beetles; mid-winter is the safest time, and when the beetle is least likely to be active.

We don't mean to say your tree necessarily has Oak Wilt, we just want you to be aware of the threat. Live oaks are very vulnerable to the disease; on that subject, we want to answer your question about pruning to induce new growth with a resounding "no." By now, those beetles are definitely active and they looooove freshly pruned branches. Any beetle visiting those newly-pruned areas to have a drink of sap may very well have just come from an infected tree, with the Oak Wilt fungus still clinging on ready to spread to your tree.

Third thought, you do know that live oaks don't drop their old leaves until Spring and, as you point out, this has been one weird Spring. If nothing else is wrong with the tree, all those last year's leaves will drop suddenly all in about a week, and you will be raking again.

Conclusion (sort of): We think it is very possible there is some transplant shock involved, but the tree will probably survive, especially since it is putting on new leaves, please, no pruning or even scratching the bark to see if the inner layer is green, because we are sure you don't want to invite the beasties to tea.

 

From the Image Gallery


Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

More Planting Questions

Season to plant Pacific Wax Myrtle from Fallbrook CA
July 25, 2013 - Would like to know which season would be the best to plant Pacific Wax Myrtle in Fallbrook, CA area? I presently have invading bamboo, which I want to get rid of. Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Dividing and planting Yucca and pups in New Mexico
June 23, 2009 - I bought a Yucca plant and had 7 plants in one planter 1 large and 6 small. We wanted to split up the plants so we carefully separated them and planted them. My soil is very sandy (Rio Rancho) but I...
view the full question and answer

Root ball disintegrating on Arroyo sweetwood from Dripping Springs TX
May 11, 2013 - I just purchased a arroyo sweetwood in a 5 gallon container and when I went to put it in the ground the root ball completely fell apart. I put it in the ground and watered it really good. What are its...
view the full question and answer

Eliminating non-native Asian Jasmine in Austin
December 02, 2010 - I have a large bed in front of the house full of jasmine that was planted by the builder 25 years ago. What suggestions do you have to eliminate it and prepare the bed to plant native flowers and pl...
view the full question and answer

Want a ground cover instead of St. Augustine to fill in gaps in stone pathway.
November 19, 2012 - I'm considering using Silver Ponyfoot (instead of St. Augustine) to fill in the 6" gaps between my 24"x24" cut limestone blocks footpath and patio. Do they run long that may cover the blocks, whi...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center