The Q&A Archives: Golden African Tulip

Question: A year ago I planted an 8' Golden African Tulip tree from a nursery where the roots had escaped the 15 gal. container. After planting it, it blossomed, but then all the leaves fell off - as I was told they might. But then after it came back they fell off again and the tree appeared to die. I had given up on it when I was told to heavily feed and water it - which has helped, but still many of the few current leaves turn yellow and fall off. Is there any way to know if the watering is too little or too much, or if fertilizer is a concern? Pretty vague question, I know.

Answer: Some plants never recover from a poor start and others take a few years to overcome their initial problems. Unless you did some surgery prior to planting to relieve the pot bound condition of your tree, the roots will continue to grow in a spiral, eventally girdling the tree and killing it. If you did cut away some of the roots, the tree will have a better chance of surviving. Transplanting presents its own set of stresses to a tree, which could set it back even more. Since most landscape plants take up to a year to become established after being planted, yours is probably just now getting to around to developing new roots. Don't expect stellar performance until it is fully established and has had a chance to overcome the obstacles of a misguided youth. Continue to provide water on a weekly basis during the growing season by buildin a basin on the soil surface over the root system. Flood the basin to be sure you're getting water to the entire root mass. Don't fertilize now; doing so will put too many demands on your ailing tree. If it doesn't begin to perform well for you by next summer, it was too far gone to recover and will have to be replaced. Best of luck to you and your tree!

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