The Q&A Archives: Dwarf Red-leaf plum

Question: I purchase two Dwarf red-leaf plums I planted about a week ago. They appear to have reddish orange spots on the leaves which are falling. It has been extremely hot 100+ for the last few days. I have tried to water lightly in the evening but the leaves continue to fall. Am i watering too much? When they were planted i had miracle grow potting soil mixed in with the regular dirt. Help they are so pretty I would like to save them. I have not added any plant food to them just plain water.

Answer: Midsummer is the most stressful time of year to transplant, so some stress and transplant shock would not be unexpected.

The best thing you can do is to keep the soil evenly moist like a wrung out sponge, not sopping wet/saturated and not dried out. You only need to water to supplement rain so how often depends on the weather and your soil type. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger. If it is still damp, do not water yet. When you do water, water slowly and deeply so it soaks into the soil down as far as the deepest roots. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to find out how far the water went; sometimes it can be surprising. It is better to water deeply less often than to sprinkle a little every day.

If you haven't already, put a two to three inch deep layer of organic mulch in a flat layer over the root area. Do not let it touch the trunk or bark of the plant. This will help keep the soil and cool and moist and will also help feed the soil slowly over time as it breaks down.

You would not want to fertiize in mid summer, and do not fertilize when plants are stressed. If you want to try some TLC, you could top dress around them with some good quality compost or possibly spray them with compost tea once a month or so during the growing season. Next spring you could use a general purpose granular or slow release fertilizer such as 10-10-10 or similar proportions per the label directions. It is better to underfertilize than overdo, so do not worry about that too much now.

These are potentially subject to some foliage disease problems, and the red spots might be a sign of that. Since these are new I would suggest you consult with your retailer as soon as possible, or else with your local county extension also as soon as possible to obtain a specific diagnosis of the problem. You need a diagnosis before you can decide what to do. Your county extension will have the most up to date recommendations if treatment is needed, they can tell you what to use and how/when is best to apply it for maximum results.

In the meantime, clean up any fallen foliage and put it in the trash to limit reinfection sources -- and do the same this fall. Also avoid wetting the foliage when you water as this can contribute to disease problems. Good luck with your shrubs!

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