Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Monday - July 08, 2013

From: Cypress, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Watering, Trees
Title: Leaf drop from live oaks in mid-summer
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We have a live oak that is starting to drop a considerable amount of leaves here in early July in Cypress Texas. Its a mature tree with a base diameter of 12-14" and 25-30' tall. We live in a subdivided neighbor hood and there is a tree its same size less then 10' away (from base to base) and it is not dropping any leaves. The leaves that are dropping appear to be evenly located throughout the tree. Less than 5% of the trees leaves are dropping although its still seems like a considerable amount on the ground considering its July. Do you believe the tree is in distress? We have a sprinkler system but because of the lack of rain the past few years do you believe it may be a result of a drought condition? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

The fact that only one of your oak trees is dropping leaves may mean that the soil around it has been compacted by heavy foot traffic or that soil structure around it is simply different from that under the other tree.  If the tree is on a slope water retention may not be adequate.

I believe you will be able to find some indications of what is causing the leaf drop in an article from Texas A&M.  The article describes symptoms of oak wilt and of other less serious diseases of live oak.  These can often be diagnosed by examining the fallen leaves. A pdf copy of one of the accounts can be downloaded here.  These bacterial and fungal diseases are most commonly seen in seasons of good or heavy rainfall rather than drought.

If the leaves do not show indications of disease, I would recommend that you pay attention to the ground area surrounding the tree in question.   If the soil dries three to four inches deep, it’s time to water.   A sprinkler system generally does not provide enough water for trees.  Give the tree regular deep watering by leaving a garden hose trickling on two or three areas near the drip line for several hours.  This method is better than watering near the tree's base.

If it appears that you may have an oak wilt infection you should contact the Texas A&M office noted in the above web site right away.  Other types of leaf disease are usually not particularly serious and may not harm the tree.  New leaves will not form until next spring.

 

More Watering Questions

Watering oaks in Houston, TX.
June 07, 2011 - Our yard (Real County, TX.) has many oak trees. We never water these trees, but I wonder if you recommend watering during this extreme drought. The trees look very stressed and are covered in ball m...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in American beautyberry in Birmingham AL
July 13, 2010 - We created a new garden area in our yard that gets full sun in the afternoon. I had a Beautyberry Bush that had seriously outgrown the area where we originally planted it (also full sun), so I transp...
view the full question and answer

Watering newly-planted Afghan Pines
May 11, 2015 - I just planted some Afghan pines in Amarillo, tx (avg. rainfall about 2O in. Per year) What would be the appropriate amount of water and how often would I need to water during this time.
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Chestnut Oak in Waukesha WI
September 13, 2009 - Bought and had nursery install a 4" diameter, 16' tall chestnut oak. Watered it as instructed-every 2nd or third day-hose stream size of my pinky for 45-60 minutes. It was planted in July. Just l...
view the full question and answer

PVC pipes for irrigation in ground in Austin
August 19, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants,What are your thoughts on installing PVC pipes into the ground around trees and shrubby trees? A classmate's grandmother had a pipe pushed or pounded into the ground near her speci...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.