Mulberry's trimming scars won't heal - Albuquerque Journal

Mulberry’s trimming scars won’t heal

Tracey FitzgibbonQ. I have a mulberry tree off the back of my house that was trimmed last year to remove branches that were infringing on the house, roof and patio. The tree has been dripping from every scar that was left from the trimming and creating a mess on the patio, lawn chairs and everything else in the way. The scars don’t seem to heal. Is there anything that can be done to remedy this situation? – R.L. Albuquerque

A. The situation you’ve described doesn’t sound good. It sounds like a malady called wet-wood disease and I know of no chemical control for it.

I’m curious as to what time of year the tree was pruned. If it was done in the heat of summer, that could have been a contributing factor.

Another cause for the not healing might be that the branches were cut too close to the supporting trunk. Go out and give a “normal” limb a good look and see how it’s attached.

You can usually see a wee enlargement just where the limb and the tree come together. That enlargement is called the collar. If it’s cut into – by cutting the limb too close to the trunk, or a larger more mature limb – that trunk has a devil’s own time healing because all of the capillaries and veins located in the structure of the collar get befuddled and don’t know where to shut themselves off, so to speak. Hence the weeping.

A properly trimmed limb needs to be removed just past the collar for that wound to heal cleanly. There shouldn’t be much of a stump left behind either. A clean cut just past – but not cutting into the collar – offers the tree the best capability of healing properly.

Also, I wonder if the cuts were started on the bottom of the limb cutting up, and then continued from the top so there was no tearing of bark away from the trunk because of the weight of the branch being removed. Always cut a limb from the bottom first and then match the cut from the top to prevent bark tearing.

I hate to think too, that perhaps the tools might have brought an infection along with them. But I pray not. That’s why I have and will continue to advocate cleaning pruner, bypass and saw blades frequently with alcohol.

It used to be recommended to paint the fresh cut with pruning paint, but so much research has been done suggesting that the painting can trap all sorts of fungi and bacteria that eventually creates its own set of bad circumstances. So painting the dripping scars won’t do any good.

I have read that you can help grow the tree out of the situation by keeping it healthy, properly watered and to fertilize it regularly, applying a fertilizer that contains a high nitrogen content in its mix. A good granular lawn food with numbers like 16-8-8, watered in well – as long as it doesn’t contain any weed killers or weed preventatives – and applied every six weeks through the growing season might help.

I don’t know what else to suggest to cure your mulberry. You could call the county agricultural agent, Albuquerque Master Gardeners or a local nursery to see if there are other recommended courses of action to get the mulberry healthy again. Since mulberries are one of my favorite trees I hope the “fix” is out there for you.

Q. I love poinsettias but have never been lucky keeping them looking good for long. Do you have any thoughts for me so I can better care for them? – D.P., Albuquerque

A. Like you, I enjoy keeping the holidays terrifically colored with poinsettias!

I do have a couple of thoughts for you to make them look good for long.

First, poinsettias don’t like the cold and they truly don’t like to be set in places where it’s too breezy.

Poinsettias don’t like the cold and don’t like to be set in places where it’s too breezy. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

So setting them near a door that opens and closes frequently, well, that’s not a good spot for them.

Next they shouldn’t be allowed to dry out ever. But you also need to make sure they aren’t sitting in a puddle of water for an extended period of time either.

When a poinsettia starts to fail, it’ll look droopy and crinkly, making your first instinct to water the poor thing. That might be what it doesn’t need.

Make sure it isn’t drowning. If the plant came to you with a wrapped pot, be sure to slice the bottom of the wrapper – or better yet – cut the bottom away so the pot does drain.

Next, they like to live in a brightly lit spot, but won’t withstand lots of hot sun bearing down on them through a windowpane.

Poinsettias like constant conditions, so find them someplace where it’s not breezy (that includes a blowing heater vent), moist soil without being kept too soggy and really bright light. Find a spot like that, watch the watering and you should have better luck keeping those colorful plants for weeks, perhaps months, throughout this holiday season!

Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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