Dying Contorted White Pine?

picaroon(z5b)May 8, 2007

Hi Everyone,

Last week I planted a contorted white pine and its not looking so good. Pictures below. I gave it a really good watering. The ground around the tree is clay but I dug a big hole and used almost 10 bags of triple mix to make sure it had a lot of good soil, and the root ball I raised partially above the ground to make sure it would have good drainage. But its starting to look like a Charlie Brown tree. Help! Is it diseased or did I do something wrong?

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Check for white pine weevil (Pissodes strobi)


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 12:28PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

what are the growing tips doing?????

almost looks like some thug grabbed a few branches to throw it off or on the wholesalers truck ...

EVERGREENS [i hate the term] stay green long after the injury or even after death .... which makes me think it is nothing you did last week

do not take the above as suggesting yours is dying ...

look for the bugs.. but one branch can mean nothing ....

what are the growing points doing???? if they seem happy .. upright.. extending.. and look like they are ready to take off .. or they do take off inn the next week or two .. i presume you have nothing to worry about ....

if the rest of the tree starts looking like that one branch .. exercise your warranty, if you have one ....

i do not 'know' clay .. but i would not have amended the soil ... but i defer to the clay experts ....a peat based mix ... 10 bags ... will hold a lot of water for a conifer .... then add the cauldron of clay .... i just don't know ... i am glad you raised it.. all the clay people plant conifers that way .... hopefully one of the clay peeps will chime in .. what is triple mix???

good luck


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 2:20PM
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The photo I uploaded actually makes the plant look healthier than it is, it doesn't convey how much brown is appearing over the tree. I should point out that the tree had some brown on it already on the lot, just not so much. Also, the root ball sort of broke open (came untied) while planting and revealed that there wasn't much in the way of roots, just some stumpy trunck-like roots that look like they were cut off too short... I used some transplanting liquid to help stimulate root growth. I'm wondering though if I'm not watering it enough.. Should I be watering it every day? How much water should I be giving it? I can't tell the difference between and under-watered and overwatered tree..

Thanks for the answers. I guess it is best to wait and see. I'd hate to use the warranty though because that means an entire day of digging out the tree, bringing it back to the nursery and buying another. Kind of a nightmare to think about.

Triple mix is the expensive soil they sell at our local garden centers consisting of manure, peat and loam.

Resin: I checked for weevil's after receiving your post. No bugs in sight. Just dead needles. If I brush them with my hand they fall off like an old christmas tree..

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 2:53PM
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"No bugs in sight"

You need to cut open the dead shoots lengthwise to see if they have been hollowed out inside by the weevils. If hollowed out, the weevil larva may or may not still be inside the shoot (it may already have pupated and left)


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 5:08PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

I think the phrase "...there wasn't much in the way of roots, just some stumpy trunck-like roots that look like they were cut off too short..." says it all. Do you have a warranty?


    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 6:16PM
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Yes the root ball was a bit lacking, thats why I added those details, I wasn't sure if that was normal or not. There definately weren't any long roots, definately nothing longer than a foot and even those would have been as thin as string (can't remember for sure since I wasn't paying much attention at the time). I remember pulling out cedar hedges many years ago and hacking the roots off to free the plant. Then after twisting them out of the ground, the remaining stumpy root ends look just like what I found in this root ball. So maybe thats it..

Yes I have a 1 year warranty, but I'd almost pay the $200 or so that the tree is worth just to avoid having to dig it out again (moving all that river rock), wrap it up, drive it back, get a new one, and replant... *sigh* but thats all part of gardening I guess, I shouldn't whine :)

Thanks for all the advice everyone. I'll cross my fingers and hope it improves. Sounds like there isn't anything else I can do for it.

Resin: After a full branch dies I'll definately do an autopsy on it..

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 8:19PM
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"I think the phrase "...there wasn't much in the way of roots, just some stumpy trunck-like roots that look like they were cut off too short..." says it all. Do you have a warranty?"

Must admit, I missed seeing that note - that changes things, and is by far the most likely cause of the dieback. It is the nursery's fault, too, so get it replaced. Or better, get your money back, and buy new plants from a more reputable nursery!


    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 4:29AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

There is not enough root system left to support parent plant. That = death or extensive die back.
Some growers hire inexperienced diggers to come in for a day to dig. Paid south of the border wages and are compensated by the number of stock dug. Yours was a victum of one of there fast track digs.
Shallow dug b&b conifers should always be avoided. Also inspect ball to see if it tight and not broken. Broken balls are a result of being unloaded at the tailgate and dropped to the ground. Avoid these at all cost.
On the upside a full tight rounded ball of equal proportions most always has enough exhisting root system left intact to insure a successful transplant.
Hopes this helps.


    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 1:33PM
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Clay soil has to be amended, not replaced. The hole was too big, it's holding too much water, and the breaking apart of the root ball didn't help either. The short, stumpy root you refered to was the tap root, which is why it was so big. When you buy a balled and burlapped tree, you only purchase 5-7% of the root system. Thats PLENTY if planted properly. To successfully plant any tree in clay soil, dig your hole wide and shallow. You only want it deep enough to set your plant on and have about 2-3'' of root ball above ground. Don't try to break up the soil underneath, you want it like a shelf.Use a tarp when you dig your hole so you can properly mix the compost(any type of compost-it brings good microbes to the soil to break up the clay) 50-50 with your existing soil. This is the mixture you will use to backfill. When you have your hole prepared, gently place the still wrapped root ball in the hole and when you have it exactly the way you want it,and you arent going to move it any more, cut the ties on the root ball, peel the burlap back so it's not against the trunk of the tree, and backfill. Then cover with mulch and water in. You want to keep newly planted trees evenly moist, not wet. One slow, deep water a week (45 min or so) should be plenty. FYI- the reason you dig your hole wide and not deep in clay soil is because you are breaking the soil interface...giving the water a place to drain off when you do water. It prevents water from sitting around the root ball like a clay pot. The taproot, which is the one that was cut, is only temporarily used by the tree for nutrition. When the tree is established, it kills the tap root and it's used as more of stabalization system. The trees feeder roots will all be in the top 18'' of the soil. Another reason to amend out as far as you can. If you amend too DEEP, the first time it rains, your tree settles and is sitting in a cereal bowl full of water. I hope that wasnt too random. I had a lot to say.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 5:31PM
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