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?

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
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

Wednesday - July 05, 2006

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Propagation, Transplants, Trees
Title: Leaves falling off recently transplanted mature Mountain Laurel
Answered by: Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I have recently purchased a Mountain Laurel for my backyard landscaping. It is a fully matured ML standing over 9 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Since it was planted (about 6 weeks ago) it has been losing its leaves. I live in the NW part of Austin in the hill country. The tree gets a fair amount of sun as it has only partial shade from a taller Live Oak that has an encroaching canopy. I have manually fed it Lady Bug brand John's Recipe Fertilizer, which consists of 3% Nitrogen, 1.5% Phosphate and 2% Potash obtained from fish emulsion and seaweed extract. It is automatically watered by my in-ground irrigation system every other day for 15 minutes. Are the leaves that are falling off a sign it is not doing well or could this just be the result of it being recently transplanted? What can I do to improve it's chances for success and get it healthier?

ANSWER:

Mature trees of any size resent the process of transplantation; mature Texas Mountain Laurels, Sophora secundiflora are especially unforgiving.

Plant response to transplanting (transplant shock) is a complicated issue, especially for plants like yours. Some of the factors involved may include the general health of the tree before transplanting, type of transplanting method used, size of the root ball relative to the size of the top of the tree, time of year transplanted, time of day of transplanting, weather conditions on, before and after transplanting, soil conditions before and after transplanting, pruning at time of transplanting, and after-transplanting care. This is by no means an exhaustive list, other factors can also play a role in transplantation success or failure.

It is not possible to say whether or not 15 minutes of irrigation every other day is too much or too little without knowing how much water is being applied during that time, how porous the soil is and how the water is going into the root zone.

Leaf drop after transplanting is a symptom expressed by the plant that it is not taking up enough water to support all of its foliage. It is tempting to water more in response to leaf drop. However, that is often a fatal choice for your plant. The better solution is almost always to remove foliage by pruning. In general, mature, field-dug trees should have 1/3 or more of their foliage removed at the time of transplanting. This is usually accomplished by judicious pruning of branches.

Plants under stress should not be fed, so don't feed your Mountain Laurel any more for a year or more. Prune back as much top as you feel comfortable removing. Finally, keep a close eye on the rootball to make sure the soil is not staying too wet. If it is, stop watering altogether for a few days until the soil can dry out some.

 

More Propagation Questions

Repotting from 4-inch pots
April 18, 2006 - Hello. A week ago I purchased some native plants at the wildflower center plant sale. I would like to know how to repot these seedlling native plants. They are in 4" pots right now. I have as follows...
view the full question and answer

Gathering seeds of Indian Blanket from Duncanville TX
June 09, 2012 - We have a field full of Indian Blanket that are blooming now and would like to share some seeds with our friends! Where is the seed on them and I take it we wait till they are done blooming to get the...
view the full question and answer

Standing Cypress Plants in San Antonio, TX
June 26, 2013 - I purchased seeds for standing cypress 2 years ago and this spring they look beautiful. What is the best way to harvest the seeds? Also, will the current plants come back next spring or will I have to...
view the full question and answer

Flowers for Fall in Bosque County from Valley Mills TX
April 06, 2012 - What Wildflowers could we plant in Bosque County area to bloom in the Fall?
view the full question and answer

Moving plants for extreme drought from Greencastle IN
August 23, 2012 - In exceptional drought here in Indiana, I am looking at weeds that may become my next perennials! How do I move what my dad called ragged robins from the edges of roads. They are blue and could be wil...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center