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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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Saturday - May 11, 2013

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Planting, Trees
Title: Root ball disintegrating on Arroyo sweetwood from Dripping Springs TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just purchased a arroyo sweetwood in a 5 gallon container and when I went to put it in the ground the root ball completely fell apart. I put it in the ground and watered it really good. What are its chances of surviving?

ANSWER:

Please see this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on Myrospermum sousanum (arroyo sweetwood). Because our Native Plant Database contains information only on plants native to North America, excluding Mexico, we have no information on this plant. We can, however, attempt to answer your question on the bare-root planting of your tree.

The answer to your question depends on several factors about which we know nothing:

1. Was the tree planted before the weather got hot? We usually recommend that woody plants, trees and shrubs, be planted in Texas in cool weather, when the plants are semi-dormant, like November to January.

2. Did you  buy it from a reputable nursery with which you have done business before? To be honest, it doesn't sound like that plant had been rooted in the pot; perhaps a bare-root plant was stuck in the dirt and loose dirt poured over it, shortly before it was sold to you.

3. Did you amend the soil from the hole for the tree with some compost or other organic material to make it easier for the tiny new rootlet to absorb nutrients and water from the soil?

4. Have you been watering it by sticking a hose deep down in the dirt around the hole and letting it dribble until the surface soil was wet, about once a week?

Any of these actions or lack of same can contribute to whether or not the tree survives. Transplant shock is one of the most common causes of loss of trees. You are the only one who can answer the question on whether it will survive. Time will tell.

 

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