Purple Leaf Plum HELP

wft1612July 12, 2007

In early April '07 I a landscaper planted a purple leaf plum in the corner of my backyard, approximately 6-8 feet away from the corner wall. The landscaper included this tree on the existing "drip" irrigation system with two adjustable flow drip lines positioned about 12 inches on either side of the trunk. The tree appeared healthy when planted.

Since that time it has slowly (continuously) lost leaves and remaining leaves always appear dry and brittle. New foliage has sprouted but it quickly dries and eventually falls from the tree. The branches themselves are not brittle. When I break a small end of branch off it appears normal (that is not dry or brittle with normal stringy bark/wood texture inside).

The drip irrigation on this tree (as intitially set by the landscaper) waters every other day for about 20 minutes with the adjustable flow drippers opened rather aggressively. A well around the tree fills with 1"-2" of water. I thought maybe that was too much water and reduced the flow slightly, but it hasn't helped the problem.

Are my dry/falling leaves from too much water, too little water, or from something else? Any help... please?


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Hello there. I found this link my doing a google search. About halfway down is the section on Purple Leaf Plum. Hope this helped!

Here is a link that might be useful: Disease Control in the Landscape

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 5:32PM
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I am having this EXACT same problem. I bought and planted a purple leaf plum and planted it in the back corner of my yard. It was about 10ft tall with leaves on every branch. I hand watered it every other day so I could monitor how fast the ground was drying up. I know that they grow well in the neighborhood because there are several of them on my street alone.

About a month after it was planted, the leaves started to turn from burgundy to a burnt orange color and very brittle. Shortly after that, new lime green growth started sprouting up everywhere and then within a few weeks, just died off.

I did some research and it said that it may have been japanese beetles or some other kind of pest and recommended a root soak. So I bought the Bayer root soak, applied it and nothing improved.

It only has a couple brittle leaves left on about 20 branches and I can't tell if it's dying, needs more water, less water, more fertilizer, less fertilizer, some sort of disease or what?

Is there anyone that can recall the first year with their purpe leaf plum and let me know how it went for them?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 8:27AM
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stephanotis_1(8b AZ)

Mine died it's first year in from a combination of grubs and gophers. When I pulled it out of the ground there were almost no roots at all to it, and there were grubs hanging on in the dirt. My neighbors have had success with two of the trees, and theirs are planted on mounds with excellent drainage. They said they haven't done anything special with them, except fertilize a couple of times a year and make sure it's getting enough water.

I haven't been brave enough to replace mine that died.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2007 at 11:55PM
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kazooie(kapiti coast, NZ)

i don't think that 20 min every other day is a long enough soaking for your tree. especially with the heat that we have had the past 2 months. i would drag the hose out to your tree and let the water trickle out overnight. this will give it a good soaking. you should try to change the watering schedule to go longer and less frequent.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 3:16PM
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there could be grubs. thats what happend to two of our pruple leafed plums, a peach, and lime. when we dug them up they were full of grubs! try useing a repellant.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 11:31PM
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It sounds like your watering schedule was set for way too Trees need to be watered deeply but infrequently. The adjustable emitters usually put out 10 gallons per hour when fully open. They have eight or so little 'streams' that flow out from the emitter.

If you are watering for 20 minutes with two emitters you're applying about 6 gallons of water. For a 15 gallon tree this is probably ok but every other day is way too often. In fact every other day for any plants in a landscape is too often, unless they are newly planted of course. Watering longer (at least one hour) twice per week is probably a better strategy in the summer. Take a look at the FAQ section on watering on the home page of the AZ Garden forum for more tips.

Purple leaf plums are poorly adapted to our climate and soils. They are much happier growing in Payson or Flagstaff. Poorly adapted plants are more vulnerable to pests and diseases which may be why this tree fails to thrive here despite good care.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2007 at 12:57PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Purple leaf plums are buggy and diseased trees even where they are adapted much better than to the desert. Mine is covered with aphids and dropping fungused leaves as I type here in Oregon. The color is nice but I'll never plant one again, no matter where I live.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2007 at 3:21PM
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I am finding this msg on the AZ section so I assume you live here in the desert. If you do, I would ask how close that tree is to the wall and is it a block wall? Both you and the other poster said it was near a wall and if that wall gets direct sun from morning to mid afternoon, well then you have set the purple plum next to the equivalent of an open oven door because the wall stays hot long after the sun passes over head. Probably baking the tree itself. I have a purple plum in my front yard that's doing fine but it's not near a wall. Plus, I always put two 2foot long pieces of drilled PVC pipe in the ground next to the roots when I plant trees to pour in fertilizer and fill with water once in a while. Hope this helps

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 10:22AM
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I just purchased a purple leaf plum and Chinese Evergreen Elm to replace to other trees that were removed from my back yard. I don't know a great deal about tress, but I wanted a relatively low maintenance tree.. After reading these posts, I'm a bit uncomfortable now. Is the Purple Plum a high maintenance tree for AZ and it apt to fail?

Also, what are your opinions on the Chinese Evergreen Elm?
They haven't planted either of them yet, so I could still drop the purple plum and go with two Chinese Evergreen Elms... Or I'm open to other suggestions as well. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2008 at 11:13AM
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I live in N Scottsdale and just purchased but did not have delivered a 24" box purple leaf plum. The sales lady mentioned that they have sold many in S Phoenix and that the tree is hardy to 30 degrees F. It occurred to me that my home is at a much higher elevation and that perhaps it is too cold where I live for this tree. There are none in my area. Any thoughts on this? I'd like to cancel this tree and find a small low litter tree or small shrub to be planted eight feet from my pool near a corner wall.

Any thoughts? What 12 to 15 foot tree would work in this space?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 1:19AM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Purple leaf plums are hardy to much lower than 30* our winter got down to 15* this year and mine is in full bloom. Well, full bloom for a buggy, disease infested tree.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 12:38PM
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Tucson: Our landscaper put in a purple leaf plum last fall in the same position, in a corner near a concrete block wall in direct sun, and it developed exactly the same symptoms as in the original post. They just replaced it last week with a healthy tree. He hose watered it after planting and we have since had two long soaking rains. But I just looked at it and the leaves FACING THE WALL are brown and dry. This seems to be a pattern, doesn't it? I have seen these trees in my neighborhood but the leaves are above the walls.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2009 at 11:17PM
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