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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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Monday - April 30, 2012

From: Lufkin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Trees
Title: Scorched leaves on Red Maple from Lufkin TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Red Maple that we planted in Lufkin, TX about a month ago and fertilized about 2 weeks ago. We water the tree often. The leaves have become scorched looking on the outside of about 1/3 of the leaves. What can we do to make the tree healthier?

ANSWER:

Our first suspicion is your tree may be suffering from transplant shock. In the South and Southwest, we always recommend that woody plants (shrubs and trees) be planted in the cold weather of December to February. The trees are dormant then, and damage to roots or trunk is not quite as dangerous, plus you will not be asking a  plant to draw up enough water and nutrient through its tiny fragile new rootlets to survive.

We also recommend that you not fertilize trees, especially natives, especially soon after they are transplanted. The fertilizer wants to force the plant to grow more leaves, which just adds to the stress the tree has already gone through.

To check whether your tree is planted where it belongs, we checked our Native Plant Database for the common name "red maple." Four species of the genus Acer showed up so we selected Acer rubrum (Red maple) for our example.

This USDA Profile Map shows the this particular red maple is native to Angelina County, where it can enjoy the acidic soils that maples prefer.

Read this USDA Forest Service website on Red Maple. Scroll down to "Damaging Agents" and see if anything there sounds familiar.

On the whole, however, we think the problem is in the planting time and perhaps the fertilizer. Knock off the fertilizer. Water by sticking a hose deep down in the earth surrounding the roots and let it dribble until the water comes to the surface. Do this once or twice a week unless you are getting lots of rain, for about 6 months.

 

From the Image Gallery


Utah serviceberry
Amelanchier utahensis

Red maple
Acer rubrum

Red maple
Acer rubrum

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