En Español

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
2 ratings

Wednesday - July 13, 2011

From: Harlingen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Treating suspected drought-stressed live oak
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have a live oak with excessive leaf drop - it was planted approx. 20 year ago surrounded by heavy pavers. very little grass - I did not plant the tree - I have noticed in the last few years the drop increases - the oaks I have in the back yard only shed during the winter, we have long hot summers. I can removed the pavers. Thank you

ANSWER:

There is no question that even old, well-established trees are going to need some extra help during the kind of drought we are having right now. If the pavers around your tree are set close together, water permeation may be sharply curtailed.  Mr. Smarty Plants recommends that you remove as many of the pavers as possible, right out to the drip line of the tree. Replace the pavers with 2-3 inches of mulch to slow the evaporation of soil water.

Many trees have been saved in past droughts by additional  watering in late summer. As the underlined article suggests, professional arborists suggest deep watering, and the amount of water applied would depend on your soil type, e.g., rocky or clay.  The trees might also benefit from additional fertilization.  Furthermore, trees suffering from drought stress are often more susceptible to insect and fungal attack.

This University of Illinois Extension website Dealing with the Drought affirms that watering even drought-resistant trees like the oak is essential. It points out that a 90 ft. oak tree will be a lot worse to lose than annual flowers or vegetables. We don't recommend watering at the base of the trunk, but watering farther out, with a hose or sprinklers, probably about every two weeks. An excerpt from this website will tell you why:

"Our 90-foot oak example could have roots at least 40 feet beyond the tree’s
drip-line. The same goes for most shrubs. So, apply water at the tree or
shrub’s drip-line, not at the trunk."

Those roots may be pretty deep, and part of the protection of the trees, but much of the root system is in the top 12 inches of the soil. So, putting the water out there helps to avoid fungus and rot at the base of the trunk.

 

From the Image Gallery


Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

Escarpment live oak
Quercus fusiformis

More Trees Questions

Tool for removing live oak root shoots in Gonzales TX
August 09, 2010 - I've read your answer to live oak root shoots. You said to get rid of them by going 2 to 4 inches below the surface and cutting them. What tool is best for this shoot removal? I'm getting very tir...
view the full question and answer

Information about FanTex ash.
April 29, 2008 - I live in central Texas and recenty planted Fan-tex ash trees thinking that they were similar to the native Texas ash. I am beginning to beleive that this tree has more in common with the Arizona ash...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Chestnut Oak in Waukesha WI
September 13, 2009 - Bought and had nursery install a 4" diameter, 16' tall chestnut oak. Watered it as instructed-every 2nd or third day-hose stream size of my pinky for 45-60 minutes. It was planted in July. Just l...
view the full question and answer

Fertilizing oaks to produce acorns
January 16, 2012 - Will fertilizing oak trees help with acorn production?
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native indoor palm in Guilford CT
April 08, 2012 - My question is I have an indoor palm plant that I have had for 7 yrs. It has grown from about a 5" plant to about 3' tall plant. The past few weeks the leaves are turning yellow & brown and lost abo...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center