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Sunday - April 27, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Transplants, Trees
Title: Failure of older branches on Bauhinia lunarioides to thrive
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We planted a sapling of the Anacacho Orchid Tree (Bauhinia lunarioides) winter (Jan, Feb?) and now it has leaves and blooms - but only off of new branches near its trunk, as the old branches haven't done anything, and appear to be dormant or dead. Should I wait for them to come back as this is normal, or did something happen to my little tree and I should just prune the old growth off and let it start anew?

ANSWER:

The Bauhinia lunarioides (Texasplume) is a very hardy desert plant, native to a few counties south and west of Austin. Since you planted it recently, we're wondering if it might be suffering from transplant shock. Sometimes roots are damaged, or don't get enough deep watering in their very early stages of development, both of which can cause visible damage on the upper part of the plant. Since Austin is about the northern limit of its range, experts suggest that it be planted on the south side of a building, protected from winter winds. We didn't have much winter this past year, but cold might have caused a problem in a newly-planted tree. Also, we saw sun exposure recommended ranging all the way from part shade, to dappled shade to full sun. Again, a newly planted tree getting more sun than it was used to could have suffered some leaf loss.

Probably your idea of trimming back what is dead is the best. Since it has already flowered, it can hardly be expected that some part of the plant is still dormant. Nipping off the dead branches will improve the appearance of the tree, and the tree won't waste time and energy trying to get sap up to those dead spots. If it is in full sun, it might be good to give it a little more water than you usually would, just for a while. Stick a hose down in the loose dirt around the roots, and just let a tiny trickle go in until the water is on the surface. This tree, like all desert plants, needs very good drainage, so don't overdo the water!

 

 

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