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Mr. Smarty Plants - Incorrectly planted anacua from San Antonio

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Friday - November 22, 2013

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Planting, Transplants, Trees
Title: Incorrectly planted anacua from San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I purchased a 12' anacua tree from a local nursery about 18 months ago. It was not planted correctly (root bound, rolled into a hole about 3" larger than the pot) but is still alive with the number of leaves and leaf size about half of what each should be. I'd like to have it dug up and replanted, but I'm told that the shock would kill the tree. Is it possible to replant the tree and if so what precautions should I take and/or treatment should I provide? Is December or January a good time to dig up the tree?

ANSWER:

If there is ever a good time to try to transplant a tree with that many problems, December or January are the best in Central Texas. According to this USDA Plant Profile Map it is native to Bexar County. If you follow this plant link, Ehretia anacua (Anacua), to our webpage on the tree you will learn it is semi-evergreen, a popular ornamental in Texas,  hardy in dry areas and north to central Texas, where the plants may die back in cold winters. So, we believe it is worth saving if you can, but it isn't going to be easy.

How did you know it was improperly planted, and by whom was it done? There is always the possibility that a responsible landscaper would replant and/or replace the tree. At this point in the game, you need to ask yourself whether it would be better to attempt  to have it dug up, the roots trimmed and the upper branches pruned by a professional, wait to see if it improves with time, or just replace it now, and have it done right. We did considerable research to see if any expert recommended digging up a tree in the ground that long, root pruning and putting it back. There were mixed responses to that, most of them "no." One source says that even rootbound trees can put out small rootlets to access nutrients in the soil and this particular source believed the roots would not continue to circle in the ground.

Did you get expert advice on why the leaves are stunted and few? You have it growing where it is native but perhaps there is something else being done that is causing the problem. Please read these growing conditions from our webpage:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, alkaline soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay. "

The thing that leaps at us is the soil description. A plant that has been over-watered in soil that does not drain could have drowning roots. If you have been fertilizing to try to counteract the leaf problems, that could also be a problem. Native plants seldom need fertilizer and you should never fertilize a stressed tree, which probably it is.

We would suggest you have a licensed arborist look at the tree and assess the pros and cons of replant, repair or replace. If we have a very cold winter in Central Texas, the tree could die back to the roots anyway. You are the only one that can decide whether to cut your losses and start over or try to counteract the effects of mistakes made a year and a half ago.

 

From the Image Gallery


Anacua
Ehretia anacua

Anacua
Ehretia anacua

Anacua
Ehretia anacua

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