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Mr. Smarty Plants - Transplant shock in desert willow in Austin

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Wednesday - November 09, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Transplants, Watering, Trees
Title: Transplant shock in desert willow in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We planted a desert willow 5 days ago. It came in a 15-gallon pot but the tree is quite large (~10 ft) with a wide spread. We watered thoroughly during planting but have not watered since (light rain over the weekend). Since planting most of the leaves (but not all) now look wilted and faded. Is this just transplanting shock? Is there anything in particular I can do to help it recover? Thank you!

ANSWER:

We absolutely think it is transplant shock, but there are a lot of things that could have caused that. Here are the Conditions Comments on Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow); you can read these and other comments on this tree by following the plant link.

"Conditions Comments: Allow to dry out between waterings, as this will encourage more extensive waves of blooms. Avoid excessive water and fertilizer, as that can lead to overly rapid growth, fewer blooms, and a weaker plant. Prolonged saturation can result in rot. Won't grow as fast or get as large in clay soil but wont suffer there either. Can be drought-deciduous in some regions. Can survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees F."

The first thing that would occur to us is that trees should be planted in Texas in cooler weather, like from December to January, when the tree is more dormant. If you already had this very large pot of tree, you probably did need to go ahead and plant it, but it still could have been hard on it. We hope you checked to make sure the roots were not circling around in that pot, which could lead to the plant choking itself to death.

The second thing is that you will note this tree needs very good drainage-water standing on its roots can cause rot. We advise preparing the hole and adding amendments like decomposed granite and compost to promote good drainage. It should be watered infrequently by pushing a hose down into the soil and letting it drip slowly until water rises to the surface. If the water stands there for more than half an hour, your drainage is not good. Water the same way, but for a short time and more often.

Third, in spite of the continued heat, it IS November. This is a deciduous tree and may just be ready to go dormant. Remember, do not fertilize. Most native plants do not need fertilizer, because they are already adapted to the soils, and excess fertilizer can actually shock the little new rootlets.

The final analysis is that avoiding transplant shock in anything has more to do with before the planting than after. Preparing the soil for drainage, checking the roots and waiting for colder weather would have been good choices. Hopefully it will cool off a litle and your tree can begin to flourish, even as it has normal leaf drop.

 

From the Image Gallery


Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

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