The Q&A Archives: Flowering Plum in need of help

Question: Hello,
I recently planted a vesuvius flowering plum. It gets full sun 6+hrs and the leaves are all falling off. I water it daily and planted it in a hole 3x the size as directed, the soil is part native soil and part garden soil. What am I doing wrong? I even have a mulch topper to help lock in moisture.

Answer: Transplant shock is probably the cause for the dropping leaves. Too much water is probably complicating the issue and our hot weather is adding to the stress. Newly planted trees and shrubs will go through an adjustment period but eventually the roots will re-establish and the tree will perk up. It's important for the roots to get adequate water, but the soil needs to dry out slightly between waterings or the roots will suffocate (too much water will drive out oxygen and essentially suffocate the roots). So, try to adjust your watering schedule. Start by watering as usual. The next day, before watering, dig down into the soil to see how wet/dry it is. Or, use a probe (a metal rod works well) and push it down into the soil. If the soil is moist the probe will enter easily; if the soil is dry, it will be difficult to push into the soil. Your goal is to have the soil moist near the root area, but not so moist that it is soggy. If, one day after watering, you can push the probe down into the soil 2-3' you won't need to water for another day or two. If you cannot push the probe down into the soil, it's time to water. The mulch you've applied over the soil should help slow evaporation and your clayey soil should help hold moisture so all you need to do is strike a balance between giving your new plum tree enough, but not too much water. The roots of your tree will establish themselves within the next month or so and at that time it should perk up and may even develop new growth. That will be your sign that the roots are happy and the tree has adjusted to its new home. Good luck with your ornamental plum tree!

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