Crabapple Transplant Shock - HELP

jengledcApril 3, 2006

I planted a Pink Princess crabapple this weekend. At the nursery, they cut a significant amount of roots to get the plant out of the ground. It was balled/burlapped, but the roots seem to have gone through the burlap while on display at the nursery.

The leaves started to wilt rapidly, and continue to droop several days later. They perk up when I mist the tree with the hose, but the effects do not last for long. I was thinking of using Wilt Pruf to help the leaves retain moisture. It says it will help reduce transplant shock.

My question is: Is there any downside to using Wilt Pruf on my new tree? Will it make it harder for the tree to take in moisture from its leaves, which seems to help? Or will it just keep moisture from evaporating? I'm not sure how it could do both (let moisture continue to come in while keeping moisture in).

Also, any other suggestions for helping my new tree get established? The nursery gave us a product to apply once a week to help protect the roots from transplant shock.


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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Your best bet is to water deeply, rather than mist the tree with a hose or mister. By that I mean pour a bucket (3 gallons or so of water every 3 days or so, if you get no rain. They most likely gave you some liquid root stimulator like Ortho's UpStart with B1 vitamin with nutrients (N-P-K) in the ratio of around 3 - 12 - 3 or close to that. That middle number is good for encouraging root formation and growth. I think you mix about 6 tablespoons to a gallon of water and just pour it in the area of the root ball (read directions). If possible form a bit of a concave (sunken) dish in the soil at the top of the root ball when you plant so that the water will be channeled down into the root ball and won't run off or spill out into the adjoining soil. Also, use a liberal amount of mulch like shredded, treated bark to help keep the moisture in the ground and to keep the soil from baking in the hot sun and reduce evaporation in the early weeks of getting the tree established. Remember deep, soaking watering every other day or every 3rd day is better than misting the tree every day. However, for established rees, I truly believe they enjoy a little shower now and then during extremely long, dry spells. Make sure the water you use is of good quality for the plants and doesn't contain a lot of salts or chlorine. Oh another thing I always tell folks when planting trees is to dig a $100 hole for a $50 tree. That is, make sure there is at least (more is better) enough room around the root ball to that you can get one foot in between the root ball and the side of the hole for gently tamping and firming the soil as you backfill the hole. I usually fill the hole up halfway with soil and gently compact with either my foot, or my hands/fingers/fist and then pour a gallon or so of water with the upstart into the half-filled hole. This will wash soil into any air pockets to make sure all the roots come in good contact with the soil. Let that water settle. Then fill the remainder of the hole almost to the top and water again, pouring the water and upstart solution over the ball until the concave area fills up with water. Let it stand and soak into the soil around the top of the root ball. Then finally, finish filling the hole near the top of the ball, but still leave a concave area in which you can continue to supply water in the days ahead. Even if you use mulch, form and mini-wall of soil and mulch around the original edge of the hole to contain and localize the water over the root ball. Always plant the tree at the level it was growing in the nursery or container or even slightly higher, using mulching material if need be, to cover any surface roots.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 6:58PM
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All of the above advice is excellent but be aware that you can also over-water a newly planted tree. I visited one home (a field visit for our extension agent) where the homeowner had literally drowned a very expensive tree by overwatering it. The soil was almost soup when I was there and she was watering it like that every day. The happy medium is to have the ground damp the full depth of the root ball but not soggy until the plant has had time to become established. Good luck. If the tree doesn't survive, check back with the nursery to see if they have any kind of guarantee.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 11:55AM
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Laurel7286(3b Wyoming)

If the nursery had to cut the roots, they should have also trimmed the foliage above proportionately. A certain amount of root mass can only provide sustenance for a certain amount of growth--makes sense, right? If they didn't trim it, go ahead and cut back areas without new growth. Sometimes this stimulates activity.

WiltPruf isn't really appropriate now; the problem isn't that the plant is losing moisture through the leaves. The problem is that the roots (with the new little rootlets just developing for this year) have been inhibited. I agree with John, above, that you need a root stimulant--something with Vitamin B, especially B12, in it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 9:35PM
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There is a bottle of stuff that is supposed to help transplants handle the shock--some kind of root stimulator. You may want to try to add some of this to the roots, if you can dig down that far.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2006 at 6:40PM
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thanks for all of the good advice - i'll definitely follow it. it seems to be hanging in there so far. some of the leaves have dried up, so i removed them. but a lot of good leaves remain. it's such a nice tree, i hope it makes it!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 2:05PM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Depending on the size of the tree, you could trim back some of the branch ends some. If you feel comfortable with that (hard to advise how much since I don't know the overall size and shape of the tree), you could prune above a bud or branch/leaf node that is facing outward. Others who have replied, is this an OK suggestion to bring the tree back in proper proportion considering the roots have been disrupted and perhaps not cared for or balled neatly at the nursery? I know it is hard to advise specifically without seeing a picture or knowing the size of the root ball with respect to the tree itself.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2006 at 3:17PM
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