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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.

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Saturday - October 29, 2011

From: Princeton, NJ
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Non-native Boulevard Cypress Pom Pom trees in Princeton NJ
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just had some landscaping done near my front door and front yard. I have two Boulevard Cypress B&B (4-5') Pom Pom. The pom poms are turning brown. What should I have been doing? I am watering them as instructed.

ANSWER:

From Northern Christmas Trees and Nursery, here is a description and picture of Chamaecyparis pisifera, trimmed into a "pom pom" topiary. Also, read this discussion from Ohio State University of the plant, its liabilities and problems, and the fact that it is native to Japan.

So, the first thing that we think you did wrong was plant a tree not native to North America. Mr. Smarty Plants never recommends plants not native either to North America nor to the area in which the plant grows naturally. Plants that have been accustomed by thousands of years to one climate and soil type will have great dificulty adjusting to a different one.

The second problem that we see is that this sounds like transplant shock. Any time a plant is removed from someplace, like a nursery, where it perhaps has been sitting all summer in a plastic pot, and suddenly put down in the earth, there is a chance of transplant shock. You said you had "just" had some landcaping done; how recent was that? In Texas, we frown on trying to transplant any woody plant, like trees and shrubs, in the heat of summer. However, if you waited until November to January, which is when we recommend planting in the Southwest, your ground would probably be frozen. But, we found this article from the State of New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Fall: A Great Time for Planting. 

Even if the plants were put in the ground at the perfect time, they still may have been rootbound from being in the pot too long, and needed some clipping to stop those roots from going around and around in the pot and turn out into the dirt. Maybe someone got over-zealous and put a lot of fertilizer in the hole, thinking to benefit the tree. We don't recommend fertilizing when a plant is newly in the ground, you should never fertilize a stressed tree, and a newly transplanted tree is definitely under stress.

Bottom line: we really don't know what has caused the browning of your tree, but we suggest you have a visit with the nursery, describe the symptoms and see if there is a possibility of replacement.

 

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