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Thursday - July 11, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Watering, Trees
Title: Texas persimmon with scorched leaves from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I planted a Texas Persimmon seedling (five gallon) in my yard in early April. It is in a sunny, well-drained spot, and I have watered it regularly since planting. All was fine until the last weekend in June when I was out of town and the temps got up to between 105 and 110. When I got back, the tree was effectively scorched with brown leaves, although there are still some green ones, so I am holding out hope that it isn't dead. Any suggestions for short-term care other than continued watering? I live in Central Austin near Barton Creek, so soil is shallow with caliche underneath.

ANSWER:

This is the second question we have answered today on Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon). Hard times for this tree must be going around fast. According to this USDA Plant Profile Map  it does grow natively in Travis County, so we can assume your soils and climate are correct for the plant.

From our webpage on Texas persimmon:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
Drought Tolerance: High
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, limestone loams, clays, and caliche.
Conditions Comments: North of the Rio Grande Valley where winters are cold, will usually be deciduous. From the Rio Grande Valley southward, will be semi-deciduous-to-evergreen, losing its leaves all at once in early spring like live oaks, with no period of bareness."

The things that catch our eye from that is that it would like part shade, if it could get it. We consider "part shade" to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. With the heat and drought we seem doomed to have in Central Texas, it would be nice to give baby plants a little break, if you can. Also, under Soil Description are the words: "Well-drained, limestone loams, clays, and caliche."

This may be a case of "Hindsight is 20-20." We recommend, especially in Texas, that woody plants - trees and shrubs - be planted when it is cool and the plants are in dormancy; that is, November to January. You called it a seedling; five gallon is rather more than a seedling, but still, it was introduced to Texas weather at a pretty vulnerable time.

The other thing we are concerned about is the phrase "Well-drained, limestone loams, clays, and caliche." You almost undoubtedly have one or all of those soils where you planted the tree, but is it well-drained? Clay soil, in particular, is notoriously bad at drainage. Clay is made up of tiny particles - when water is introduced it swells up and excludes oxygen. An unamended clay soil can quite literally drown roots. If you dug up the native soil to make a hole for your little tree and mixed some good quality compost, sand or even decomposed granite in with it, the tree roots would have a better chance. You said it was in a well-drained spot, so we hope you have already taken care of that. Adding to the amount of water you have been giving it may well be doing it more harm than good.

The best analysis we can make from here is that it is suffering from transplant shock, caused by heat when it was planted, really bad heat since and poorly draining soil. Transplant shock can show up years after a woody plant has been placed in the ground. If the soil is indeed well-drained, you should be able to push a hose down into it and let it drip slowly until the surface becomes wet, and do this about 2 times a week. Beyond that, we would recommend a layer of about 2" of shredded bark mulch over the root area, without touching or being pushed up against the trunk. This will help insulate the roots from that broiling sun and, as it decomposes (and is replaced) will add to the draining capability of the soil. We hope it will live, this is a tough native to your area; but if it doesn't, heed our warnings and plant its replacement in January.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

Texas persimmon
Diospyros texana

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