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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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 - July 25, 2011

From: Bastrop, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Transplants, Watering
Title: Possible freeze damage in Wax Myrtle from last winter in Bastrop, TX
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Our Wax Myrtle is about 7 yrs old and in good shape until this past winter when we had several very hard freezes. Now several of the large branches are dead and more are dying each month. We have not had to fertilize or do anything but water every week. What might be the cause(s) and what should we do to save our tree? It is about 10 - 12 feet tall. Thanks so much!

ANSWER:

You need to inspect the plant to see if there is insect or fungal damage. You might enlist the aid of the folks at the Bastrop County office of Texas AgriLife Extension in this endeavor.

Your Wax Myrtle Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) may be telling you that it didn’t like that cold winter. Depending on its location and the extent of exposure, the freezes may have damaged the root system, and the plant is responding to an imbalance between the root systems and the shoot system. This is similar to what happens in transplant shock where the roots are damaged and the balance is disturbed when the plant is transplanted. So one scenario is to treat this as a case of transplant shock. I’m providing links to websites dealing with transplant shock that provide various remedies for the problem. You need to pick the suggestions that most closely fit your situation.

There are three activities that are recommended in the articles:

Pruning; remove the dead branches, and perhaps some of the live ones to reduce the water demand on the root system. Don’t take off so many leaves that  photosynthesis is impaired.

Watering; keep the soil evenly moist, but avoid overwatering. Wax myrtle prefers moist soils.

Mulching; apply a layer of mulch under the plant to prevent water loss from the soil and to keep the roots from getting too hot.

Although you may be tempted to fertilize the plant, don’t do it. Stressed plants do not need fertilizer.

Websites
   Clemson University

   northscaping.com

 

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