Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - April 03, 2010

From: Manchaca, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Trees
Title: Tree transplants having problems in Manchaca TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have recently transplanted a Mexican Buckeye, Chinquapin oak, and Sandpaper tree that I have been raising inside since they were seedlings. They have now developed a browning of the tips of their leaves. The buckeye's leaves are turning black while the other two are browning on the tips. Please help. Is a bug, not enough watering?

ANSWER:

Ungnadia speciosa (Mexican buckeye), Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak), and Ehretia anacua (knockaway) are all native in or near Travis County, so you don't have your trees in the wrong area. Since we are not plant pathologists and can't actually see the tree, this is going to take some detective work, and you will have to be the detective.

First, when you say you transplanted these trees recently from a sheltered environment, how recently? Was it last week, a month or so ago in the midst of our cold snaps or last summer when we were having record heat? Since all three are showing signs of stress, the problem may be the same for all three. Coming from being grown indoors to the much less forgiving environment of outside, they could very likely  be suffering from transplant shock. Transplant shock is a pretty broad category and could be caused, at least partly, by sudden temperature changes, by putting fertilizer in the hole where it would shock the little roots, or by planting them in a poorly-draining clay soil.  When you asked if there had been not enough watering, with the recent rains we have been having, that seems unlikely, but if the soil is not draining, the roots could be drowning. 

As for insects, have you seen evidence of any insect activity? Holes, swelling on the leaves, tiny spots on the underside of the leaves? We will give you websites that have pictures and can tell you a little about some of the most frequent bug villains to threaten new young growth. Don't, please, go to the nursery and ask for a spray. That could hurt the young trees far more than any possible insect. Many insects can be controlled with a spray of water on the leaves. This early in the season, we think you can discount insect damage, but it doesn't hurt to check.

Possible Insect Pests: 

University of California Integrated Pest Management - thrips

University of Minnesota Extension - scale insects

University of Missouri Extension - whiteflies

University of California Integrated Pest Management - aphids

Colorado State University Extension - spider mites

Finally, on the watering: stick your finger down in the soil around the tree roots and see if it feels very dry, nice and moist or very wet. If it feels nice and moist, and not compacted, leave it alone, it's fine. If it feels very wet, the drainage is probably bad, don't water it. You might try putting some good quality shredded hardwood mulch on the soil. That will protect the roots from heat, and as it decomposes, add some more organic material to the soil to assist with the drainage. If the soil feels loose but is dry, stick a hose way down in the hole, and let it run at a slow dribble for an hour or so or until water appears on the surface. If the water stands on the surface for more than thirty minutes, we're back to the drainage problem. 

So, what to do? Unless you discover an obvious insect or water problem, it still looks like transplant shock. You didn't say how tall the trees were or if there were any healthy leaves, but try trimming off about 1/3 of the upper portion of the tree, leaving some leaves for providing nourishment to the tree. Remember, no fertilizer until the trees seem well-recovered. Fertilizer would force the tree to try to put on new growth, which would be even more stress on an already-stressed tree. Trimming some of the upper growth will, again, take away some of the stress on the roots. Beyond that, since these are all trees native to this area, there is hope that they will adapt and grow up to be big native trees.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Ungnadia speciosa

Quercus muehlenbergii

Ehretia anacua

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Transplants Questions

Transplant of non-native Lathyrus tuberosus in North Carolina
June 13, 2006 - I have a tuberous sweetpea vine that grows wild on our property. When would be a good time to move this plant to a better location?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting non-native mimosas in Braintree MA
August 10, 2010 - I want to transplant some baby mimosa trees. Have tried in past and they just die.
view the full question and answer

Brown, dry leaves on weeping willow tree
May 01, 2008 - We live in central TX and have just planted a weeping willow tree. Our back yard has a retention pond and ravine that parallels our property and we were told that the weeping willow will do perfectly ...
view the full question and answer

Moving a red oak away from the house foundation
January 24, 2008 - About a 3 weeks ago I noticed a 5 ft. red oak growing in my flower bed. I hadn't noticed it growing up through my shrubs until the leaves turned bright red. The problem is that its coming up about tw...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant Plants and moving Wax myrtles in Austin
April 30, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Plants, What are the most fire resistant and drought tolerant plants for caliche soil in Austin area? I am considering relocating or removing my wax myrtle shrubs because they are ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.