Just planted red maple in shock

daniel_clJuly 13, 2010


A month ago we planted a 12' red maple 'October Glory' tree purchased from a local nursery. Due to lack of experience, during planting we probably have exposed the root to the sun and wind for far too long. The leaves have changed color a few days after the planting:




The leaves looked much worse (more red) about a week ago, but has turned back green a little recently. No leaves have dropped. The newer, small leaves are still green as normal. Leaves that are shaded by others look significantly greener. Some additional information:

- The tree sits in the backyard that faces northwest.

- Full sun. Right after planting, we had a week of hot, windy days. Last week was also very hot.

- Soil is heavy clay with miserable drainage. For the planting hole, the composition was 7:3 of clay:black soil/garden earth. We planted it shallow so the tree's trunk flare is 4" above the ground. We also covered the 3' hole with 4" of red cedar mulch.

Just 25m from this red maple, there was a ~15' red maple on public property suffering from mild (~20%) chlorosis probably as a result of the heavy clay.

The nursery told us to keep waiting as the tree is shocked. We wonder what we can do to help the tree. Thanks.

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anderson_dc(5a Iowa)

June really isnt the best month to plant trees, especially when its hot outside. We lost a cleveland pear tree in our front yard this spring but with the encouragement of the tree nursery are waiting to plant it until after the first hard frost. Sure it looks stupid, especially in our front yard, but the likelihood of the tree surviving and not getting as stressed is much greater.

Im no expert but the guys here will probably ask was it B&B or potted when you bought it. How wide was the pot or bag that the tree came in? Generally want to make the hole its going into 2-2.5x as wide. Also having the root flare 4" above ground seems to be a bit much.

What kind of watering have you done and how much rain have you received?

It sounds like your tree with be ok, just having some transplant shock is all but i will let the guys who know more about it chime in.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 10:39AM
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Since this was our very first time to plant a tree, we took the advise of multiple tree-planting guides online.

The tree was in a container. The roots have grown out of it. The pot was about 1.5 feet wide. We made the hole 3 feet.

We have heavy clay. As we know that means poor drainage, we raised the planting bed. We water it a little every day.

Now we are happy to see the newer/smaller leaves in perfect green. Let's just hope that the tree survives this winter (we'll get some thick mulch to cover the roots).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 9:27PM
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How much is a little? On the forum I believe the conventional wisdom favors slow, deeper waterings more sporadically. I believe it's Ken who tells me stick your finger in to the second knuckle, and if it's dry deep, then water some.

The idea is to get water down to the root ball. And allow drainage between waterings.

People on the forum sometimes discourage amending planting holes for trees (in other words, adding a different kind of soil). I'm not sure how much impact your mix will have.

Since the roots had grown out of the pot, did you cut encircling roots (from the pot perimeter) before planting (to prevent girdling later)?

I'm just tossing out a couple of ideas until more seasoned folks respond.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 2:05PM
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We have heavy clay with very poor drainage, so we only water a little but do it twice a day. The soil remains moist beneath the mulch.

A few days after the initial planting, we did end up cutting the encircling roots and the foot-long root branch that grew out of the pot (it was totally exposed to the air during delivery, so we figure it was no good). The tree turned even more red after this operation (the pictures above showed the leaves before this operation). But the leaves have turned back a little greener (still worse than the picture) this week.

Another reason that we decided to perform the operation on the already shocked tree was to dig up the sod that I tossed to the bottom of the tree hole during the initial planting. They were already decomposing in the heavy clay pit - smelled so bad.

Must say the tree has gone through hell due to our inexperience. It will be nice if it survives!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2010 at 8:49PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Let us know how it does Daniel, give us updates every so often.

I always feel like cutting back on the watering is an experiment.

Generically I water new transplants about every 3 days w/o rain pending the finger test. You're aware of the additional stress from the heat so tough to say. Generic red maples are pretty tolerant of lots of water so I assume to can give an October Glory quite a bit. Just don't make it a soupy moat lol.

Also I like to water "around the tree" not just at the root ball soon as I feel the tree is out of danger of immediate death. This is to encourage the roots to grow out into the yard.

Keep us updated. I bet you'll be fine.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 1:26AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Your tree will and is completely fine as long as it was planted at the right depth and you implement the proper aftercare.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 5:29PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Erroneous, obsolete directions from nurseries and web sites, bad advice on forums abounds. For modern, on-target information...

Here is a link that might be useful: Horticultural techniques for successful plant establishment

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 1:50AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Solid info in Bboy's link.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 10:22AM
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Here is a little update on the poor tree:

The maple's leaves have turned green again. About 1/3 of them are as green as they were in the nursery. The west-facing ones are still quite red (probably because of the powerful afternoon sun). All but one leaf turned flaming red and dropped. The others still hang on for its first glorious October!

The tree is performing much better than the crabapple tree that the city just planted in our front yard a week ago. (Almost all leaves are drying out and falling.) Compared to that our red maple seems to be very tough! (And we might be not as bad as we thought.)

I also just enlarged the root zone to 4' in diameter. While gently working on the soil I could see the maples' new roots reaching out. We are all very excited to see the tree's recovery in its first season.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 7:57PM
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> All but one leaf turned flaming red and dropped
Sorry I meant only one leaf dropped. :)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2010 at 8:00PM
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