Redbud might not be down for the count just yet

Redbud might not be down for the count just yet

Tracey FitzgibbonQ. We planted a young Eastern redbud a couple of weeks ago. It sat in the pot from the nursery longer than expected, about a month prior to planting, while we prepped other things in the backyard.

During that time the tree was watered daily, but it was knocked around by the wind and, unfortunately, ended up on its side a few times. Ultimately, to keep it upright and more protected until we did plant, we moved it out of the wind – onto the back porch – where it had indirect light and it did receive a regular daily watering.

Prior to planting, we amended the soil with cotton burr compost and a bag of good quality raised bed soil, dug the hole two times the width of the root ball, and kept the area close to the trunk above ground so the tree can breathe.

We have been watering it daily so it can establish a strong root system. It looked great for about two weeks. With days of high heat and wind the leaves have all dried to crispy. It looks so unhappy. It’s not clear to me whether it is a short term issue due to the shock of planting or if the tree is done for. It was out in the heat and weather consistently prior to planting, it shouldn’t have been too sudden of a temperature change.

We had planned on planting this particular type of tree in this new yard for several years and it was much anticipated, and had/has a great shape. I’d appreciate any advice on how to help it recover/survive. – P.S., NW Albuquerque

A. I literally had to calm down after reading your inquiry. You are correct that this woe-begotten creature has a great shape and I hope it can grab ahold and recover from its trying beginnings.

That said, I’m pleased the redbud wasn’t planted too deep, keeping its “nose” above ground. That is a good thing.

Mycorrhizal fungi may benefit this redbud tree in northwest Albuquerque. (Courtesy of P.S.)

I am concerned that the product you chose to amend with, the “good quality raised bed soil” might be too “hot” (containing a lot of nitrogen) and after aiming to settle in, the redbud’s roots got a bit scorched pulling up too much nitrogen. That would easily explain some of the crispy leaves.

You didn’t mention applying any root stimulator at initial planting, so I will recommend that. I’ll remind you to apply the root stimulator after watering. Never fertilize on dry roots. Even though the root stimulator isn’t fertilizer per se, it’s best to stay in that habit of watering first. It wouldn’t harm the tree if you applied a properly mixed dose of the root stimulator every month until October either.

It was recommended to me a while back that along with the root stimulator, you consider applying mycorrhizal fungi. I haven’t done nearly enough homework about the fungi, but the way I understand them is they colonize around the roots and allow more water to be drawn up from the soil. Where you have more water drawn up into a tree – especially one that is struggling – to me it seems like a very good thing.

The mycorrhizal fungi are not bad fungus. Type mycorrhizal fungi into your search engine and you’ll find it easily available online. I haven’t called any local nurseries to see if it’s available locally.

One picture you sent shows a long depression where I’m assuming the hose lays when the redbud is watered. I’d recommend moving the hose end from pouring directly at the trunk to the inside edge of the moat (at least I think I can see a moat in the staked tree picture). When you do water, take your time filling the moat. If it were me, I’d increase the diameter of the moat too.

This redbud tree in northwest Albuquerque is experiencing some crispy leaves. (Courtesy of P.S.)

Also, don’t spray the tree with water this time of year, either. You certainly don’t want to add sunscald to this baby’s troubles. I’m not sure if the redbud can refoliate where the damaged leaves are, but as it puts on any new growth, that growth should leaf, allowing the tree to photosynthesize.

I do hope you continually check to be sure the staking ends on the trunk aren’t cutting into the tree. Next year, I’d consider removing the bamboo stick that is running along the trunk, too.

I pray that the redbud has it in it to gather some strength from your continued tending of it. Head into the summer months knowing that you’ve not given up.

With any luck, next spring will be far easier for your much anticipated redbud.

Keep On 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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