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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - August 16, 2011

From: Brenham, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Watering, Trees
Title: Oak tree with browning leaves in Brenham TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have a large oak tree in my small back yard. I also have a sprinkler so the tree has been receiving some water. Nevertheless, some of the leaves are turning brown in patches. Would drip watering over days help this situation due to the drought?


This year, everything is turning brown, some in places like your oak tree, and some all over, indicating a very dead plant. There are all kinds of diseases and pests of trees or, more specifically, of the oak that could be causing this. Here is a paper from Forest Health Protection, Southern Region on Oak Pests. Since we are neither entomologists nor plant pathologists we cannot diagnose the specific problem, especially without seeing it.

But, because of the extreme weather in Central Texas, we are betting on the heat and drought being the source of the problem. Before you even try to find out if insects or disease are causing the browning, we would definitely recommend watering more. Remember how far out from the trunk those roots are growing-at least as far out as the drip or shade line, and usually two to three times that. Drip watering of a tree is really only effective when the tree is very small and newly planted. In that situation, we suggest you push a hose down in the soil and let the water drip slowly until water rises to the surface, at least twice a week during hot, dry weather. For a large mature tree, you need to get water farther out and you probably couldn't get a hose in the ground for drip watering there. Use the sprinkler, moving it around to water each area where roots probably are, and leave it in each position long enough to really wet the soil. Again, twice a week.

The leaves that are brown will not turn green again, it will soon be time for the oak to drop leaves anyway. But if you start providing water to the little rootlets all up and down the length of the main roots, the tree will have the energy to put new leaves on in the Spring season.


More Watering Questions

Death of Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy from Austin
April 18, 2013 - I have one small area that there are two plants - Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy withered and died eventually. Same kinds of plants are doing fine close by. It is my front yard close to walk way.I w...
view the full question and answer

Relocating native oak trees in compacted soil
September 14, 2008 - Can you replant and relocate small oak trees in compacted soil and will they grow or go into shock?
view the full question and answer

Suggestions for flowerbed in Mesquite TX
June 17, 2011 - I live in Mesquite and am new to the area. I am trying to make the flowerbed in the front of my house look better. I've planted some yellow roses and red roses but would like some perennial that bloo...
view the full question and answer

Recovery of water-stressed Agarita
August 11, 2014 - Hello! I planted a small agarita at the end of May and then left town for six weeks. During that time it was supposed to receive weekly deep irrigations to help it establish, but it seems that som...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in American beautyberry in Birmingham AL
July 13, 2010 - We created a new garden area in our yard that gets full sun in the afternoon. I had a Beautyberry Bush that had seriously outgrown the area where we originally planted it (also full sun), so I transp...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center