Washingtonia fast becoming yellow after planting

neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)April 4, 2010

After planting both Washingtonia Robusta trees (1-2 days later) started browning ends of foliage and yellowing a lot. I water sufficiently every day. They were transported about 50 miles from the nursery in a horizontal position on a flat bed truck. The trees foliage was beautifully green when arrived to the planting site. Is this related to planting stress?

P.S. The way the nursery owner planted them was he drilled a round hole about 1,5 size of the rootballs and then dropped the trees in, filled with the soil and compacted the soil around the palms with a soil compacter and left. Rootballs were not wet while being planted. I watered them an hour later or so and every day after.

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Could they have dried out during transport?
Can you dig down and see if your watering is reaching the roots?

Does sound like transplant shock,were they bareroot during shipping?

also,if you have watered them in once and thoroughly,you don't need to water everyday-

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 8:29PM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

even though they compacted the soil there is probably air still around the root ball. To fix this, you need to use a LOT of water. How tall is your tree? You may also need some equipment if its to big to push and handle by hand.
I use a piece of 3/4" PVC pipe about 4 foot long on the end of a hose. You can get the hose to pipe fitting at any Lowes or Home Depot type store.
with the hose on full, let the water drill into the ground as you press the pipe down in around the tree. You may see the water just disappear if it hits a big pocket of air, or it may just keep filling and working into the soil. Keep working around the palm on all sides, drilling down, until you have a slurry of mud, then, keep drilling water in while another person pushes on the palm, rocking it back and forth, so the mud settles into all the air pockets. You will likely see a few small bubbles form up as you are working it. It's kind of a slow motion version of a vibrator working the air out. You can also use a shovel handle or other tool handle to plunge into the mud and shake it kind of fast to jiggle the mud and, again, be working the air out. It takes a rather vigorous effort to really work it and the air may take a minute or 2 to work up from the very bottom, so stay at it.
good luck and be sure to stay safe if this is a big tree.
I do this with all my date palms as I plant them and have very good success, but it does take a bit of muscle and a good bit of water.
Arthur the date palm guy

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 8:43PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

They were transported with root balls wrapped in some kind of black plastic "bags" in a lying (horizontal, sleeping) position. Thank you for all your suggestions. Everyone told me to water every day and the nursery professional who planted them told me to water them every day for several months. He did hose-digging with the windmill he planted, but he told me it is unnecessary to do it with Washingtonias. I already had water disappearing and soil sinkage where water would flow underground endlessly. I dug with a shovel and refilled that space with dirt again.

The both washingtonias are about 12+ feet tall overall height.

Last year they planted one washingtonia in August which remained green foliaged until december or so and then it all turned brown and until now did not show any signs of growth yet. So I have 3 washingtonias now.

One of the two this year was planted higher (masked with soil), another was planted lower. Please take a look at these photos. This is how they looked 2 days ago. Now they are much more yellow.


I made the nice round mounds around the trees myself, because the way he planted was just a bunch of compacted soil. UFL website says do not compact the soil, others say water every day, yet others say water twice a week. Whom to believe?

Do you think they will die if the air pockets remain?

Thanks very much for your help and opinions.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 10:36PM
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Beautiful trees. I konw the "pro" told you to water everyday, but i find it hard to believe a tree would need that much water for that long.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2010 at 11:53PM
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I have transplanted a few huge palms in my yard in the past and killed a palm or two for under watering after a transplant. If you have fast draining soil I would leave the hose on like you have been doing but go to lowes or home depot they sell in the garden department at type of water "ring" that sits at the bottom of the palm and "drips" water to the root ball area only. If you get the rings put one on each palm and it connects to the end of your hose and just leave it on constantly.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 8:54AM
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More advice,first off-follow your own instincts.

I would say your palms look fine.
Personally I would water deeply less often and not water it all the time,you can feel how wet the soil is buy reaching down in there with your hand.

Water it deeply,check in a day or 2 and see how far down it before the soil is dry,if it's dry after 5-7"you know you need to water longer,just make sure you are getting water ALL the way down to the base of the roots,it may take more than you think.esp if your soil is really dry.

I really think you would be better off watering deeply than just soaking it all the time.you really need to establish how far the water is getting down in the soil and how long it takes to dry out,then you will know what your time table is-step it up if it is getting hot there.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 10:28AM
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washingtonias tend to brown after transplanting, all mine lost all their leafs but the spears & 1-2 open fans but they come back pretty quick especially durning summer! as long as the centers are green they should be fine. i would keep doing what you are doing & soak they for about a few weeks then twice a week after that but deep soaks & fertilize if you havent already. but winter is a different story, where do you live? a zone 8a is alittle tough on washies.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 3:37PM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

Once watered I would leave it alone b/c they do not want too much water. They are from dry areas.

Respectfully, ask to speak with the nursey BOSS or owner b/c these palms should be guarenteed to survived the first year when they plant them.

PS sounds like a rush planting job if you needed to add soil already. I would not water everyday.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 3:59PM
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I wouldnt water it everyday (but in my area the soil really doesnt drain at all). They are very drought tolerant and dont mind drying out. As long as its not really brutally hot in your area (like mid 90s), then I would only give it water once a week if it isnt rainning much.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 5:06PM
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brooklyngreg(7a NYC coastal plain)

I agree.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 10:18AM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

Thanks for all the posts :-) The nursery told me yesterday, that the trees got yellow and even brown from a stress, because they were imported from Orlando, FL area in March to a zone which probably is 7B/8A (accordingly to old USDA map) near Irmo, SC. Their same palms got brown, not yellow, I saw them yesterday, so that makes me feel better, because all of those imported palms got yellow or brown and not only mine.

Where I live is near Orangeburg, SC. We got low to mid 90s (Fahrenheit) this and last week. It can get easily into 100s F and even up to 110F or more. South Carolina sandhills or midlands would probably be a desert, if there was no vegetation so much and a slightly drier climate. The climate here a lot of times is quite dry, with humidity around 20-30%. In summer of 2007 it got 111F in the shade near my house and 120F in Orangeburg. Accordingly to USDA old map it is zone 8A, but about 50 miles from the zone 7B, but accordingly to the new 2003 USDA map, it is well into zone 8A and even could be close to or in the zone 8B, but I'm not sure. I see the southern and eastern SC (coast) is already in the zone 9A accordingly by the updated USDA maps.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 11:08AM
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softmentor(z9/sunset13 CA desert)

he told me it is unnecessary to do it with Washingtonias.

Well, that is wrong, every day is needed for W.'s

I already had water disappearing and soil sinkage where water would flow underground endlessly. I dug with a shovel and refilled that space with dirt again.

That confirms what I thought. Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you on this. I am a date grower, mostly for fruit, but I also do a lot of work with offshoots, doing contract growing. What often happens with larger palms is after they are in the hole, they get pushed around by the machinery which rocks the palm in the soil, creating a space between the palm and the dry soil. And the soil doesn't pack well anyway. You definitely need to get the soil all the way to the bottom of the hole worked into a slurry and then "vibrate" or shake, tamp or how ever, keep working the mud till you don't see air bubbles. Then shut the water off and keep going with the tamping, shaking until the mud gets a little stiffer, but stop before the mud starts to clump and separate from the palm.
With a palm that size, it's too big to push the whole palm and shake it, and you don't want to have it fall. The best method is to use the hose with the "wand" made from 3/4 pvc pipe in conjunction with a shovel handle prodded in to do the shaking/tamping. Do one third on one side then move over to snother side. It's a little like making stirring sauce in the kitchen, stir till your arm feels like it's about to fall off, then keep stirring till it does fall off then use the other arm. It takes some vigor but when done right, it only needs to be done once and your palm will take off and all that is green will stay green and grow.
The roots need soil to grow into, so they need the soil contact. And they need wet soil to get water, not air. Air in the planting hole is by far the number one reason palm transplants fail. A good transplant with good soil contact should not have any fronds brown or yellow at all.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 4:04PM
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neonrider(USDA 8A ^ Sunset 31 ^ Mid-SC)

Please check this page, I'm looking for info on why my Robusta stopped growing or grows (grew) extremely slow:


    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 6:22PM
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