Rising Sun Redbud May Be Sick Or Lacking Water???

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We purchased our first tree...ever! It was planted by the nursery we purchased it from in April 2012 - and I called them last month (May) to see if someone would come out and take a look at the tree. It doesn't look healthy. It always looks droopy, like it doesn't get enough water. Some of the leaves are crispy around the edges and a lot of them are speckaled with brownish red dots. If I could upload a picture I would. I just need someone to tell me what I need to do. It gets watered about every 3 days sometimes longer if it has rained. It got Plant Start the day it was planted and again last month. It's due for another dose of it in a couple days. Am I watering too much, not enough, using the correct fertilizer, does it have a disease - Help!


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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Hi Cindy-It sounds as thought your tree may be getting too much water. This water plus additional rain my be a fungus causing both the spots and shriveling of the leaves. A picture of the tree and a close up of the leaves would definitely help in identifing the problem. Above this comment and to the right of your name, next to 'Edit Your Question' you will see where you can upload your pictures.

7 years ago ·
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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
Thank you for your quick response, John. As you will notice, I was able to upload some pics...looks so sad doesn't it? It's been very hot and dry in Lincoln, NE - we finally got some very heavy rain just 3 days ago. Looking forward to more, hopefully, today. Nursery said it wasn't getting enough water and to turn the water on very low and let it soak the tree for about 45 minutes - this is of course with the hose. Any suggestions, comments, anything is greatly appreciated!

7 years ago ·
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3 Answers

Answer #3 · Gardenality.com's Answer · Cindy - One more question. When you purchased the tree, was it in a plastic container or was it balled and burlapped (B&B)? If it was B&B this might explain things. B&B trees, or seriously root bound container trees, may not grow much during the first warm season. Their leaves might be distorted, discolored, and much smaller than normal. The reason for this is that while the top of the tree still has all its branches most of the roots that supply the branches and foliage with water and nutrients were cut away during the digging. It usually takes a year or more for the tree to reestablish a root system that will support all the branches and produce normal sized and healthy foliage. Sometimes pruning the tree will help to compensate for the root loss while also stimulating new root and foliage growth.

Too, I wouldn't recommend using a synthetic quick-release 20-20-20 fertilizer on the tree right now. I'm kind of surprised that someone in the industry would recommend using such during the hot summer and when the tree is under stress. You're free to try it though and let us know how it worked out. But, as John did, I would recommend a more mild, natural fertilizer such as the Milorganite and then mulch with some good organic compost.

Regarding how to know if there is a fungus in the soil, this could be determined by having the soil tested in a lab by your local extension service.)


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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
You know I don't remember if it came in a plastic container or B&B. I'm thinking it was container, but to be honest, I just don't remember. I would need to go to the nursery again and see just how these trees are kept.
A couple of the lower branches are worse for wear and I was wondering if I should remove them, or if it was even wise to do that. I also didn't know if it was ok to do something like that now or wait until fall.
As for fertilizing - I'm in no big hurry to do anything that may jeopardize this poor tree any further - it's definitely under stress and I don't want to stress it any more. I'm for using a slow release though, I'll see if I can locate some Milorganite.

7 years ago ·
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Gardenality.com

Gardenality.com · Gardenality Genius · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
I would suggest calling the nursery to see if they know if it was container or B&B. Many nurseries no longer carry B&B trees. If it was a B&B you could probably prune without harming the tree. Do you have a local arborist in your area? If so, it might help to have him take a close look at the tree and offer advice and maybe pruning if necessary.

7 years ago ·
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Answer #2 · Maple Tree's Answer · It sounds as though your soil is well draining which is good. If you found the soil to be moist and not wet around the root ball this should be sufficient. Of course during the warmer months additional watering may be needed to keep this moist condition. A couple of inches of mulch around the tree, keep it a few inches away from the trunk, will help to keep the top few inches of soil cooler and moist during the summer.

The fact that there is no new growth on the tree may be to some extent transplant shock. It may take some time to grow and establish new feeder roots that will support new growth.

The redbud uses nitrogen from the air as a nutrient. Thus, large amounts of nitrogen is rarely needed as a fertilizer. But, if you want to feed your tree, use a balanced slow release fertilizer formulated for shrubs and trees. A fertilizer such as Milorganite would work well and will not burn sensitive new roots. In my opinion using a fast acting fertilizer high in nitrogen along with the Miracle Gro could very possibly burn the roots of a new tree.-John)


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Gardenality.com

Gardenality.com · Gardenality Genius · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
I agree with John. The use of a high-nitrogen quick-release fertilizer during summer and when a tree is under stress isn't the remedy I would suggest....especially in the absence of a soil test. I'm in agreement that the use of a slow-release, natural, non-burning fertilizer/plant food would be best. That's why I had suggested mulching with worm castings or mushroom compost. These products are packed with nutrients that plants require for optimum health. Milorganite would be a good choice and it contains 6% naturally occurring nitrogen.

7 years ago ·
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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
Yea, I didn't ask about slow release or fast acting. I didn't know there were choices - I'm sure he meant to indicate which one I should use. Although I haven't used any yet - I want to make sure I don't jump ahead and use fertilizer when I may not need to. So will wait until Mr Jackson views all pictures and asks more questions before I make a calculated move to save this tree.
We have had some very very hot days during the spring, almost reaching 100 degrees with no rain. I know I didn't want to 'over' water, so there's a real chance I may have 'under' watered during some very hot times. What's worse, over watering or under? That's some of my confusion as to how to water - how much, how often, etc? So if it's transplant shock and possible under watering during some very scorching days, the tree still has a chance at bouncing back, right?

7 years ago ·
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Answer #1 · Gardenality.com's Answer · Hi Cindy - If it's not a soil moisture problem...I'm not sure but there's a possibility it could be sun scorch. I planted my first Rising Sun Redbud just this past spring. It was a container grown tree in a 5 gallon size container. To be on the safe side, I planted it in a spot that gets mostly dappled light but no direct sun. The tree is doing great. It's probably doubled in size since planting it in March of this year. There's a few leaves that have eRn chewed on by some kind of bug but other than that the rest of the leaves are healthy...new leaves being orange fading to yellow and then to light green. Because mine in doing so good in the dappled/filtered light it made me think that possibly yours was in full direct sun and that this might be What was causing the problem. If you've been watering enough to keep the soil and rootball damp, but not wet and soggy, I wouldn't think that soil moisture is the problem. You can check for soil moisture by digging a small hole next the the rootball and seeing how wet or dry it is or if the hole quickly fills with water. If the soil is dry deep soak for several hours and then resume normal regular watering to keep damp. If the soil is wet and soggy stop watering until the soil has dried out somewhat. Let us know after you've checked the soil moisture and also about the exposure to direct sun. This is a new cultivar of Cercis canadensis and it would be good to get feedback. Typically, like dogwoods, redbud trees do and look better with at least some afternoon shade.)


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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
Thank you, Brent. I didn't think about possible 'sun scorch'. It has been a very hot spring and it was planted mid-April in our front yard. The location we picked gets full sun. According to Jackson Nursery's description-Exposure is Full Sun, Cultural Care is Wide tolerance of soil moisture - so maybe I've watered too much and it's getting too much sun. But what's too much or just right watering - I've never grown a tree. How often do you water a new tree, for how long, is every 3 days to much, should it be more like 5-7 days, how much time and at what rate is watering to only dampen the roots, should you fertilize every month...I'm very confused about this part of the process. Our tree hasn't grown and the new leaves barely come in at the orangey, apricot color. I'm so glad your tree is healthy - I'm hoping I can give ours a chance at thriving. Maybe we will also have to consider relocating to a more 'part sun, part shade' area.

7 years ago ·
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Gardenality.com

Gardenality.com · Gardenality Genius · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
I'm not absolutely sure that the Rising Sun Redbud won't tolerate full sun...it was just a hunch based on how redbuds have performed in my own landscape. I've got 5 varieties growing right now and all are in part shade and doing well. That being said, I've seen the native redbuds growing in full sun along side the Interstate highways. Typically, Cercis canadensis is one tough and versatile tree that adapts to many conditions. Just not sure about the Rising Sun because it's a new cultivar that I don't have long term experience with. Your nursery could be right about it tolerating full sun. The leaves on your tree just look like they've been scorched. If there is too much moisture around the roots the leaves will often brown around the edges first. That being said, my Rising Sun is under a drip irrigation system and the soil stays fairly moist but well-drained all the time. So, yes, it apparently will handle moist but well-drained soil. Not sure about consistently wet and soggy soil...probably not.

Regarding how often to water, this depends on the amount of rainfall you're getting, the soil drainage, the temperatures, or whether your new tree was container grown or field grown (dug from a field and then rootball covered with burlap).. Because they've had a major portion of their feeder roots cut off during the digging process, field-grown trees won't require nearly as much water and are much more prone to transplant shock and to have problems with their leaves during the first year or two after planting. So, with all these factors, it's difficult to provide a specific watering schedule. When there's been plenty of rain in our area I turn the automated irrigation system off for a while to allow the soil to dry out. During the winter I rarely water anything...unless there's a severe drought and temps are going to go below 20F. Dry roots are very susceptible to cracking from a deep freeze and water around the roots will form ice that helps as an insulator against severe cold temperatures.

Best thing I can say is to keep the soil moist but not wet. Hopefully the soil is well-drained. Not many plants or trees will grow well in consistently wet soil as this can lead to oxygen starvation and root rot. Make sure that the root ball of the tree does not have soil that was removed from the planting hole on top of it...or that the tree was not buried too deeply when planted; with the top of its rootball below ground level. If it was planted to deep or has settled below the ground level this can cause problems as water will collect like a puddle around the base of the tree and atop the rootball. So, first check to see if the tree was planted at the proper depth. Then, during this first season, I would recommend checking the soil moisture by hand and then watering by hand only when necessary to keep the soil moist/damp but not soaking wet all the time.

7 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Brent-I was looking at the third picture and noted how dark the spotting is on the leaf. Because of the amount of rain many got late in the year I was wondering about a possible fungus problem. Gleosporium fungi can attack redbud trees, causing all sizes of round or irregularly shaped leaf spots in tan, dark brown, red-brown, purple-brown or black. Spots often appear on leaf borders or follow vein paths as these seem to do. Could this be a possibility or not in your opinion?

7 years ago ·
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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
John, from what I have researched, this type of fungus is rarely treated with a fungicide. It's best treated with a preventive spray. So does that mean there may be no way of saving the tree? Is there a way to find out what type of fungus it is, if that is what it is.

7 years ago ·
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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
Brent, thank you for all the wonderful information you provided. I will check out the moisture level sometime in the next couple of days and report what I found. Thank you, again.

7 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Cindy-Most of the time this fungus is not fatal. You are correct that fungicides won't do much for the presently infested foliage, but will help with any new infestation. It is true that the best approach to fungus is a few preventative measures. Brent is quite knowledgable on pests and disease, this is why I asked him this question. If he feels a fungus of some sort is possible we can come up with the best approach and preventative measures for you. At this time I would definitely check your soil for moisture content as Brent mentioned.

7 years ago ·
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Gardenality.com

Gardenality.com · Gardenality Genius · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
John - It very well could be some type of fungal disease. If so, and the tree was healthy when planted, it didn't take long to show up. The disease would have either been in the soil or brought to the tree by flying insects carrying it. If it is Gleosporium fungi I'm not sure if there's a way to control it after it has shown up? Looked around and din't find any measures of control outside of prevention. It might just be a wait and see thing. If the tree survives this season perhaps it will emerge next year without the fungus. In the meantime, the best thing that can be done is to monitor soil moisture and water as needed. Mulching with something like worm castings or mushroom compost might help to boost the trees immune system. If the tree dies this year, I would not advise replacing it with a redbud tree because, if it is Gleosporium, the disease will still be in the soil.

7 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Thanks Brent. As you say its a wait and see thing. Hopefully monitoring the soil moisture will be all thats needed. I'll hope for the best for Cindy's tree. Thanks again

7 years ago ·
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Gardenality.com

Gardenality.com · Gardenality Genius · Zone 8A · 10° to 15° F
I'm hoping the best too because Rising Sun Redbud sure is an attractive tree. It's my new favorite of the redbuds.

7 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Not only attractive, but I was reading this newer variety is improved and is more resistant to pest and disease than the others. I guess i'll have to look around and see if I can find some room for a potted tree somewhere.

7 years ago ·
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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
John and Brent, I checked the soil and it's moist down to the roots. When I fill with water it soaks it right up. I know that when I have had the water too high, it runs off; too low and the water stops running - so good chance it may not be getting enough at times. A couple days ago I sent Jackson Nursery in Tennessee (they patented the tree) an email. They called me last night. Ray Jackson said it sounded like the tree was nutrient deficient - it wasn't getting enough nitrogen. He suggested I get a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen content like a 20-20-20 and put a handful of that and some Miracle gro around the tree and water it in slowly. Repeat in a week. Then continue through August and stop. He also said it sounded like the tree had stopped growing, which I told him I haven't seen many new leaves for about a month or more. I am off to get some fertilizer from the nursery...I will certainly keep posting updates to how the tree is doing. Is there a way to test the ground for fungus?

7 years ago ·
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Cindy Narofsky

Cindy Narofsky · Gardenality Seed · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F
John and Brent, just wanted to give an update. I haven't used any fertilizer except one that the nursery (Earl May) gave me when I first purchased the tree. It's a 3-10-3. I figured I wouldn't use anything higher as you suggested- I just didn't want to harm the tree any further. Plus Jackson Nursery still insisted that a higher fertilizer would do no harm - I just didn't want to take that chance.
The tree came in a container, so maybe it was a bit root bound - don't know since I didn't plant it.
When I took a few leaves into Earl May's, they stated it looked like it had been 'sun scorched' and had a 'fungus'. I purchased a fungicide and gave it a treement already and will wait another week before treating again. They also mentioned I could give the tree more fertilizer, but have decided against that.
Luckily this past week the weather has changed favorably and has most likely given the tree a reprieve from the scorching sun. I can only continue to water, fertilize one more time before August 15th and keep my fingers crossed that it comes back healthier in the Spring.
Thank you for all your guidance and advice.

7 years ago ·
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Maple Tree

Maple Tree · Gardenality Genius · Zone 10A · 30° to 35° F
Cindy-Thanks for the update. Sounds like you are doing all you can correctly. Just don't fertilize too heavily. Go by directions on can or a little lighter than stated for your size of tree. We are all hoping for a great recovery. Keep me updated, thanks John

7 years ago ·
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