Western Redbud - is it dead?

katita(9 CA)March 16, 2008

About 1.5 years ago we planted a Western Redbud in our front yard. Although it was Fall, the tree arrived in flower. We were told that it had been growing in a Nursery (another Nursery had searched for it for us) and that was why it was in flower. We planted it in our yard which is on a street that has heavy traffic and some wind. The tree is exposed to a lot of sunlight. We lightly amended the clay soil before planting at the suggestion of the guy in the horticulture place where we purchased the tree. The tree flowered again last Spring. Then, pretty rapidly, all the leaves (rather unhealthy looking ones that started green but got small brown speckles/stripes)dropped off and we had a bare young tree throughout the late spring, summer, fall and winter. It is now Spring, and although I have seen other Western Redbuds in flower in a nature area near my home, our Redbud is totally bare. The branches have a whitish look. There are no beginnings of buds or leaves, except one branch that has two or three little buds and one or two very tiny leaves (not very healthy looking leaf or buds -- kind of dried out and crumpled). We had a lot of rain over the winter and we watered from time to time over the summer as it was a young tree. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them. I don't know whether to call in a tree specialist or just consider it to have died. I thought of putting some home-made compost on the surface of the soil around the tree, but everything I have read says they do not like too much compost so I have avoided this. Help! We are trying to do a native Garden and the poppies are doing great but not the tree! Thanks, Katita

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wanda(Z9 CA)

Scratch a little of the bark off with your fingernail and see if it's green underneath. If so, then the plant is alive. Mine is just barely starting to bud and it's an older established tree.
Your's may just be taking it's good old time, esp. since it's a young tree. If it's green underneath the bark, then just be a little patient with it. I think mine "sulked" a bit the first season or 2 also, if my memory is correct.


    Bookmark   March 17, 2008 at 12:49AM
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Just got back from Nashville where the Eastern Redbuds were in full bloom. Magnificent. Our Western Redbuds should have flowered by now. Redbuds are one of the earliest flowering trees to bloom. I think that the Western species require different care than the eastern species. They usually need a good winter chill. They grow in fairly dry locations (unlike the eastern species) and probably do not like summer water. Spring rains usually awaken the dormant tree. The tree maybe suffering from poor roots, perhaps even rot. Most native CA trees and shrubs do not like heavy watering. Especially in the summer.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2008 at 5:30AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

Western redbuds are in nature often found in creekbeds, they are one CA native that can take a lot of water. One of mine that is in a somewhat soggy spot due to bad drainage is doing the best of all of them.

Cut off a bit here and there and see if there is life in the wood--it will be grey or dark all the way though if it is dead. If you keep hitting dead wood, it's dead.

I have several of these--they don't transplant well at all. Your tree got off to a bad start--you may need to try with another one. Don't hesitate to start a new one from seed (in the desired spot--don't transplant!) They grow quite fast from seed.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2008 at 12:52PM
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