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Mr. Smarty Plants - Dying branches on Texas Mountain Laurel from Kempner TX

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Friday - September 14, 2012

From: Kempner, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Propagation, Transplants, Watering, Trees
Title: Dying branches on Texas Mountain Laurel from Kempner TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

The branches on my Texas Mountain Laurel are very dry and brittle. The leaves are also starting to die. The tree has been in my yard for six years and prior to that it sat wrapped in burlap for over three years at my fathers home. It bloomed beautifully this past spring. The growth at the top of the tree is still green and when i do the scratch test the higher limbs are okay. It's the lower, thick limbs that are brittle and break very easily. The tree is over 15 ft tall and the tree was originally in Kerrville, Tx. I've also noticed a lot of dead branches on the tree as well. I live in Kempner, Tx with very rocky soil. Because of the problems digging a deep enough hole to plant the tree, we planted the tree above ground and built a stone 2" ft landscape wall around the tree and added soil to cover the root ball of the tree. Since the branches are so brittle, I'm thinking it is not getting enough waterm but we run our sprinkler system every day. I hope it's not too late to save my tree, but I don't know what to do. I hope you can help.

ANSWER:

Okay, let us see if we understand the lifespan so far of your Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel)

1. It was originally dug up, in the wild, perhaps? in Kerrville, TX. From our webpage on Propagation of this tree:

"Since S. secundiflora is a slow growing plant, most specimen sized shrubs are made commercially available by digging them from the wild, and then balling and burlapping. It is difficult for S. secundiflora to survive this kind of transplant because it has a sparse root system with a deep taproot. Because it is impossible to dig up the entire root, the plant often goes into shock and dies."

2. Second transplant: For three years, it sat wrapped in burlap in your father's home. Also in Central Texas?

3. Third transplant: moved to your yard in Lampasas County, where it stayed for 6 years, in a raised bed, with daily sprinkling.

From the Growing Conditions on our webpage for this plant:

"Conditions Comments: Needs good drainage"

This plant should get a medal (or perhaps a nice tombstone) for survival. Every suggestion we make to gardeners wishing to have a Texas Mountain Laurel has been defied. Three years without access to fresh soil and water! Three transplants of a plant that severely dislikes transplants. Six years in different soil with constant daily watering. This plant is basically a desert plant and needs deep watering maybe twice a month. Daily sprinkling of anything wastes water in this part of the country that can't afford it, and can cause fungal disease in the plants.

So, although we may not have hit on the precise thing that is killing your plant, at least you have several to choose from.

Can it be saved? We get many questions on Texas Mountain Laurel, including pruning. You might as well try it, what can you lose? Here are some previous questions on  Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel); they have other useful links.

# 7765

Lopidea

Aphids

Mountain Laurels dying in Georgetown

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

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