The Q&A Archives: Fungus on New Red Oak

Question: I had a new Red Oak planted about a month ago-it's about 12 feet tall and looked in great shape when I got it. Now the lowest branch has totally brown leaves on it and many other leaves are starting to discolor or turn brown completely. Is this a fungus, or is this normal? Am I watering too much (nightly as told) or not enough. I put root stimulator in like I was told, but now I'm afraid its dying

Answer: It is really difficult to diagnose a plant problem without the advantage of being able to physically inspect the tree and the growing site. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that for this tree, at this time, I think it's a normal reaction. Here's why: most landscape trees and shrubs suffer a little transplant shock when they are installed, especially if planted in the heat of the summer. Until the roots become established, your oak tree will be stressed. When red oak trees are stressed they can bypass the normal autumn color change and go from red to brown so I don't think the browning leaves are evidence of a fungus, but a result of a stressful adjustment period. My real concern is with daily watering. Landscape trees and shrubs only need about an inch of water per week. If you are watering more often the soil near the roots may remain too soggy and soggy soils will drive out oxygen. Tree roots can suffocate without oxygen, which can show up as brown leaves. I would suggest you taper off on watering; every other day, every third day, every fifth day, until you are only watering once each week during the fall and winter. You can water twice a week during the summer months when the tree will be using more water, but only once a week during the fall, winter and spring months. To make your watering more efficient, make a watering basin or watering well by mounding up a few inches of soil all around the tree, about 12 inches out from the trunk. Plan to water deeply once each week during the growing season by filling the well with water, allowing it to drain, and then filling it a second time. This will concentrate the moisture directly over the root mass and allow it to trickle down, wetting the entire root system. I think your tree will leaf out normally next spring and should show its normal color change next fall. Best wishes with your tree!

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