Chilean Mesquite losing leaves

monster_energyDecember 16, 2007

about a month ago, i purchased a chilean mesquite from home depot. i planted it and set it up on my irrigation system with a 2 gallon per hour head for 8 minutes twice a day because my soil, here in yuma, is just sand and pretty quick draining. about 2 weeks later, the tree started to lose leaves and i discovered that the sprinkler head was leaking and the tree was getting about 5-10 gallons per hour. i then capped the sprinkler to allow it to dry and have even put garbage bags around its base to keep any sprinkler over spray form the grass off of the tree. much to my dismay, it still hasnt regrown its leaves or started to grow. it has a very frail and weak look to it and i was wondering if maybe it was just a combination of the shock from too much water and it being winter that has restricted its growth or if it might be sick. i have read that these trees are extremely fast growers so i am worried about mine not growing at all. maybe it will thrive in summer when the temperature is hotter and drier?

any help is greatly appreciated, i would just like for my little tree to look healthy again.

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Mesquites are pretty tough, so yours should recover. The key to watering trees is to water deeply but infrequently allowing the soil to dry out (wrung out sponge dry) in between applications.

Here are my observations.

Your watering schedule of "2 gallon per hour head for 8 minutes twice a day" - delivers about 2 cups of water twice a day. That's not nearly enough water for a tree. If yours was planted from a 15 gallon container it should receive at least two gallons of water each time you run your system. In sandy soils you will need to water more frequently that in clay soils, but the amount of water delivered each time should remain the same. A newly planted tree would probably need water once every two days - extending the interval in between applications as the tree becomes established.

"sprinkler head was leaking and the tree was getting about 5-10 gallons per hour" - I'm guessing that your sprinklers were only running about 10 minutes. That would deliver about 1.6 gallons to your tree in that time. That's not enough to cause a problem for your mesquite.

Mesquites are dormant in the winter and many lose some or all of their leaves when the temperatures get really cold. I wouldn't expect that you would see any new growth on your tree this time of year. As long as the stems remain flexible (in your picture they look green and alive) there shouldn't be any cause for concern.

Although your tree may look like it isn't growing, underground it's a different story. Roots are in the process of extending into the new soil surrounding the original rootball. This is important and will allow your tree to set up a good root system before the blast of summer temperatures hit next year.

Look for new growth at the tips and nodes of the branches in the spring when temperatures warm up.

One last thing. You should remove the original nursery stake that is tied to your tree and replace it with two sturdy stakes placed outside the rootball. Tie the trunk of your tree loosely in between the stakes. Allowing the trunk to move slightly within the ties creates strong tissues. Do not remove the tiny branches along the trunk for at least a year. These stems and branches help to create strong trunks as well in addition to helping shade the trunk (important in summer). I've included a link to the U of A planting guidelines that has info on staking.

Good luck.

certified arborist

Here is a link that might be useful: Planting and Staking Guidelines

    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 10:57AM
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thank you for the advice, i will remove the nursery stake and adjust the sprinklers. but i was also wondering if it was normal for the leaves to condense or shrivel up when it gets water? perhaps this only happens in winter, but it certainly has me confused.


    Bookmark   December 17, 2007 at 4:59PM
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I wouldn't be too concerned about the individual leaflets drying or shriveling this time of year. Your photos show good healthy branches and trunk, as well as plenty of good green leaves with tiny leaflets.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 11:05AM
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oh, ok, i guess i will just have to wait till spring to see growth. the dormancy just threw me off because i had planted it so recently. i really appreciate the help

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 6:45PM
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We planted a Chilean Mesquite in early November and it has thrived all winter and had a beautiful full leafing this spring. We have watered it about every 3 days since we planted it to get it established.
We left for the long Memorial weekend and when we returned, the leaves are dry and crisp and fall right off when touched.
What happend?? It was unusually cool this Memorial weekend in our Arizona desert town, but, it doesn't seem to look very good.
We have very hard water in our town, but, i didn't think that our soft water would be good for it, so we have been watering with our local town water. Our neighbors have big beautiful Mesquite trees and we are very sad that our little tree is stressed.
What can we do.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 11:30PM
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Where in Az (which town)?

It sounds like it dried out and died.

How are you watering it? Drip emitters? Bubbler? And for how long? By this time in its establishment cycle, you should be watering once a week to 10 days, and watering DEEPLY to encourage the roots to go deep.

Get a moisture meter and test the soil and base your watering on what it's like 3 or 4 inches below the surface, not on a calendar.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 8:19AM
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