Dying Pear Tree

connie.klausnerMay 20, 2009

A month ago I planted a Bartlett Pear tree and it has been very healthy even sporting new growth, until today, I noticed that it's leaves looked like they were dying. I checked to see that it had adequate water and then watered it with some Epsom salt added to the water. Is there something else I can do to try to save this tree which was so healthy just days prior. Also wanted to let you know that my dog had dug around the tree covering up the jointed ball with dirt and I've read that portion needs to be open so that it can breathe. I removed the soil that was built up around it as well. Any suggestions to keeping it alive would be MOST welcomed !!



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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

have you had a frost or freeze since it leafed out???

why do you think it needs epsom salt???? did you have a soil test indicating some need for magnesium???

keep it properly watered..

keep the dog away from it

and give it a month to re-leaf...


    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 3:57PM
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The Pear Tree was completely leafed out & we certainly did not have a frost, but it did get very hot 90 degrees for two days ... Do you mean that it may lose the leaves that are not looking healthy at present and new leaf growth will follow ??

I added the Epsom salt just because I've read that it is really good for new fruit trees !!

I did water it again and the dog was digging near it but I don't think it disrupted the root growth, but it did manage to cover the root graft which I'm thinking might have caused the problem, because then the tree has trouble breathing ... RIGHT ??

    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 6:48PM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

My idea:

Not enuf root mass for leaves and the heat caused extra evapotranspiration. Baby it along and provided you planted it properly it should have a good chance to recover. Give it water but otherwise leave it alone.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2009 at 10:17PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Here's a link to one of Linda Chalker-Scott's Horticultural Myths Series papers on the use of Epsom Salts.

Her conclusion:
"Epsom salts is (best reserved for) intensive crop production in situations where magnesium is known to be deficient in the soil or in the plants. It is irresponsible to advise gardeners and other plant enthusiasts to apply Epsom salts, or any chemical, without regard to soil conditions, plant needs, and environmental health."

This goes right along with the general advice seen so often in this forum about fertilizing trees and shrubs.

Here is a link that might be useful: FWIW: Linda Chalker-Scott on Epsom salts

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 11:36AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

regardless. of the application of the SALT ... yes it is s salt ... unless you added a 50 pound bag.. you most likely did no harm ...

one of my pet peeves is peeps.. present company excepted, of course .... who think that trees need to be fed like children ...

they dont...

you rather affirmatively say there was no frost.. now my zone 5.. got frosted to heck last week .. why is it so impossible that you did not get a frost ... are you really sure.. or are you speculating...

the reason i come back to the subject...

it leafed out.. like trees do in spring ... it was A-OK ....

then there is an injury to the leaves ...

that rules in..

application of lawn fertilizers/pesticides ... which USUALLY dont float up into trees ...

and drought on a recently planted tree ...

btw: was it leafed out when you got it... could this simply be delayed transplant shock.. which occurred when the temps spiked???? .. if so.. its a watering issue ....

i am not in your garden .. i can not tell you what caused the damage...


leaves just dont injure themselves... there has to be an extraneous cause ...


    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 12:43PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

When you water, make certain it goes into the original rootball because that's where the roots are now. Unfortunately, the moisture from the surrounding soil won't go sideways into the rootball.

Use a drizzling hose. Or several plastic jugs, with several pinholes at the bottom, set on top of the rootball. Refill daily as needed.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 2:15PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"When you water, make certain it goes into the original rootball because that's where the roots are now. Unfortunately, the moisture from the surrounding soil won't go sideways into the rootball."

I don't think I could agree with that generalized statement, and I'd guess the tree was planted bare root.

I could go along with something like...Be sure the entire rootzone is getting moisture when you water...
or even...be sure to check the rootball as well as the surrounding soil to ensure consistent moisture and to verify that the area where the roots are is retaining proper moisture levels.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2009 at 3:00PM
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I'm really certain that there was no frost as it was just the opposite it got up to 90 degrees two days in a row ... which I'm speculating might be part of the problem. Also as I stated, my dogs had covered up the jointed root ball and my question is could the fact that that joint root ball was covered up with soil be part of the problem because the pear tree could not breathe. I know when you are planting a tree it states to plant so that the root joint is 1 inch above ground ... & I'm wondering since that portion got covered by soil, could that be why my tree became sickly !!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 10:10AM
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The root "flare" needs to be at soil level, or an inch above would be fine. When you say root joint, do you have exposed roots an inch above soil level? If so, it would dry out very quick, especially with 90 degree days. You don't want to be be able to see individual roots above groud level, that's too high and they will bake in hot temps. Regarding your question, even if a tree was slightly too deep, it normally wouldn't show effects in just a month. It would be a more long term, adverse effect.
I simply think it is transplant shock. It does happen, some tree species more easily than others. And 90 degree days shortly after does not help, but it wouldn't kill the tree. How did you transport the tree to your house? Where the limbs and leaves beating in the wind as you drove home? If so, this can damage the leaves and cause them to shrivel up soon after planting. I've had this happen before. But a living tree will put on a second flush of leaves just to survive. I have a "wild" barlett pear growing in my fence row and it got totally defoliated by bagworms this spring, and it is already setting new buds and will soon leave out again.
Keep it properly watered and watch for new leaves to begin emerging.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 10:55AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I'm not sure what you are calling a "jointed root ball". Do you mean the graft union (where the scion is grafted to the rootstock)?

If that's what you mean, no, the dog piling up soil against that part of the tree will not substantially affect the tree root's ability to breath. Having the soil piled up against the trunk can have at least two negative consequences. First, it could initiate rot. Second, it could cause the scion to root directly into the soil which could kill the rootstock and bypass the benefits of the rootstock (dwarfing, disease resistance, soil adaptability, etc, etc). That said, your dog probably didn't hurt anything unless he dug up a bunch of roots with his digging. If there had been damage to the bark/trunk, you could have seen it when you removed the dirt.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 10:59AM
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dan_staley(5b/SS 2b AHS 6-7)

I also don't know what a 'jointed root ball' is.

Nonetheless, trees don't react that quickly to, say, a dog burying the collar and two days later the tree wilting. Again, I think you had more leaf area than root area and the heat overpowered the tree's ability to draw moisture from the soil.


    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 11:52AM
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Sorry for the poor terminology ... I guess I should have called it the graft union or the root flare and that would have made more sense. I believe it to be planted at the appropriate depth as the root flare is just about an inch above ground and I can see no individual roots. Perhaps it was just the two 90 degree plus days that zapped it and it did not have an adequate root system in place for that. It was just odd because it had been in the ground for about one month looking extremely healthy. When I got if from the nursery, it was all leaf out and it was not bare root, but potted with blossoms on it. It loss it blossoms a couple of weeks later and the tree seemed to be SOOO healthy with new growth and new leaves. I was so shocked to see it the morning after the hot days and the leaves seemed to be withering, which they still seem unhealthy today. The soil appeared to be a healthy moist when I noticed the withering leaves, but I did water it anyway as it looked like it was struggling to live. And the dog did not mess up the root system, just covered the root flare with soil. Really makes me wonder what went wrong ???

    Bookmark   May 22, 2009 at 7:22PM
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