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Wednesday - June 09, 2010

From: Rockwall, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Diseases and Disorders, Transplants, Trees
Title: Browning leaves on recently planted chinkapin oak in Rockwall TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just planted a chinkapin oak that is about 1 1\2 inches thick last week and now some of the leaves are turning brown. Does that mean its dying? Do you have any tips that I could use to protect it?

ANSWER:

We have a feeling it is suffering from transplant shock. We recommend planting woody plants, like trees and shrubs, in Fall or late Winter, while they are still semi-dormant, and less susceptible to damage. While there is not much you can do about it now, like unplant and do over, read this website from About.com: Landscaping on Transplanting Trees and Shrubs, to help you next time you want to plant a tree.

According to the USDA Plant Profile, Quercus muehlenbergii (chinkapin oak) does grow in and around Dallas County. It prefers alkaline soil which is rocky and sandy. There are both sandy and clay soils around your area of North Central Texas. If you have clay soil, you might be having problems with the kind of drainage the oak needs. Ordinarily, we would recommend that you stick a hose down in the dirt around the tree roots and let it slowly dribble in, to help compensate for it having been planted in hot weather. However, if your soil is clay, that could just make the problem worse. You might try it once, let the water run until it is on the surface. Then, if it takes more than half an hour to drain, it is not draining correctly. You will need to go to a practice of trying to work some compost into the area around the roots, and mulching the surface with shredded bark mulch to help protect the roots. That has the added benefit that, as the mulch decomposes, it will add to the composting effect in the soil, and help even more with the drainage. 

Finally, treating it as transplant shock, trim off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the upper part of the tree. You are pretty well out of the Oak Wilt danger area in Texas; usually, we would not recommend trimming an oak before about June 15, but the chinkapin oak is a white oak, and not very vulnerable to Oak Wilt. Trimming off that upper portion will help the roots get water up to the remaining leaves, in order for those leaves to continue manufacturing food for the whole plant. Make sure the soil stays moist but not soggy, and next time you plant a tree, wait until late Fall to do it.

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