HELP my 'tulip tree' is Turning Yellow and Brown

gardener_guy(6)July 12, 2010

The tree is a Liriodendron tulipifera. I planted it last spring and it grew fine. Just now in July it started turning yellow then brown. The branch tips are still green though. I am thinking about replanting the tree because it is not stable in the ground it kinda wiggles in the ground if you grab the trunk and shake it. What could it be? What should I do?

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How big are we talking? it sounds like it may be root bound.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 9:48AM
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The tree is about 7 - 8 feet tall. It came in a 15 gallon container I think. Oh, and by the way it is the variegated form of the tulip tree.

Gardener Guy

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:09AM
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A couple of things come to mind when you say it wiggles in the ground.

One is that it's rootbound. You may have checked for that. That doesn't sound like an especially big tree for the container but that doesn't always mean anything.

Another possibility is that it just didn't have much of a root system to begin with. In which case you have to be extra digient to water it until it grows one.

Another possibility is anthracnose. It sounds like it's still alive. Ours got it bad this year. We've had lot of wet sultry nights.

I'd wait and see and keep it well watered and see if it continues to show signs of life. The first year of transplant of these can be slow going and it can look like something's wrong with the tree but they generally establish very quickly and the next growing season, they look fine.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 11:31AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i would not move anything this time of year ....

nurse it along ... come late sept.. dig it up.. check all the roots ... get rid of any circling roots ... and replant it ... after the leaves fall off ...

whats your soil.. did you get rid of the peat media??? how did you actually plant it??? amendments???

is it mulched??

how do you water it??


    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 12:53PM
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Here are picture of the tree and close ups of the stem tips. I know I could have taken better care of the root base or trunk base by weeding and mulching but we did water it. We just didn't mulch and the grass and weeds grew in. So I am trying to find out how to help this poor tree so that I can either weed and mulch or do something else to help.

Gardener Guy

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 3:54PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Neat tree! I've been close to ordering one myself.

That poor little fella is struggling.

Far as water goes, stick your finger in the soil of the rootball and water it whenever it dries.

My GUESS based on my yard is several gallons of water every three days w/o rain. I also don't water just at the trunk of the tree. I do this all around it thing to encourage the roots to grow out into the yard.

What's your weather been like Gardener Guy?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 8:55PM
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ilovemytrees(5b/6a Western, NY)

Looks to me like your tree is starving for water, and mulch for that matter. Mulch makes a gigantic difference in the early survival and growth of trees.

Why do you have a tree, this tree, if you aren't going to take care of it by mulching it after planting it? Pull the weeds up, mulch and start watering it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:08PM
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I can't tell what's normal on a variegated tulipweed and what isn't. I'd be willing to bet your tree needs more water though and mulch would be helpful too. The good news is it appears to be very much alive.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:15PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Looks like it's sitting high in a pile of potting soil that is losing water to the surrounding native(?) soil. A circling surface root is also clearly visible.

Nothing is going to result from digging tree up and re-planting it correctly that is worse than what is happening to it already.

Here is a link that might be useful: Horticultural techniques for successful plant establishment

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 11:39PM
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Missed that circling root. I see that now.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 8:56AM
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Ok I think you are right. I will weed the base of the tree. I will then mulch it and give it some good water. I will try to keep an eye on it.

toronado3800, the weather out here has been really hot. It has been nice weather, I mean sunny. But now that you mention it, it has been awfully dry recently. I wish we had just planted this tree with a little more care. It's just that we have greenhouse and a garden shed and other areas that we are planting at the same time. I guess that tree got pushed aside. But now I am definitely going to help it out, I hope.

So, About 10 feet away behind and to the left of the tree use to be an apple tree where water was a big problem. Water sat in the ground and almost killed the apple tree. I dug up the apple and I made it into a bonsai. The yard slopes upwards on the right side of the tree. Rain water would run down about 4 properties then settle just past the garden like soup. So we installed a rain drain in the ground by digging a large and long trench to revert the water around the garden into the far back of the yard and forcing the water to continue running off down the hill.

When we planted the tree we made sure we planted it just away from the old apple tree spot, about 10 feet away. Now I guess that area dries out instead of holds water. When I took the pictures yesterday it looked dryer than normal. So now I will fix the planting sight and water the tree more. Wish me luck.


Gardener Guy

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 9:11AM
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Dan Staley

Nice sample of improper planting and staking, and the resultant reaction from the plant. Hopefully it will endure and recover.


    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 11:10AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

You want the roots to be opened up and restored to their natural outward orientation, and you want the same soil texture throughout the entire potential rooting area. Tree should be lifted, the potting soil washed off and the roots spread out in a shallow, wide planting hole refilled with the same soil that was dug out of the hole (see above link). This should be followed by effective mulching as well as irrigation during dry weather.

The re-planted tree should also be given a nice, wide grass-free (and mulched) area until it is large enough to keep the turf at bay using its own shade.

After many years, when an elevated branch canopy may have developed - and the tree is too big to be bothered by grass beneath it - the most attractive effective would be to have the grass come right up to the trunk.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 11:44AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

is your soil clay .... ergo you planted above grade???? .. or is pic two an optical delusion???

if so.. now you are going to have to figure out how to do deep watering without it all running away before it soaks in ....

in my sand.. i would have a moat about 2 to 3 feet from the trunk ... at about the edge of the rootball when planted [which is where the new roots need to grow] .... so that i could lay down 3 to 5 gallons of water.. 2 or three times in a row ...

and then i would find out with my finger.. or a trowel.. how deeply the water is getting.. we need it in the root zone.. not on the top ....

once i figured out how many times i needed to fill the moat.. to get a proper deep watering ... i would then add a nice blanket of mulch to slow the water loss down.. and cool the soil ....

then.. knowing it is deeply watered ... i would not water again.. until the soil.. under the mulch is dry ... or hot ... as dry soil and mulch.. gets hot.. and is an indication that water is needed .... which might be in a week or three.. depending on the weather ... rain.. heat.. drought.. etc ....

unless you understand how the water moves thru your soil.. you are just winging it it watering ...

i dont see any variegated leaves on your tree ... they all are stress damaged for sure ... is it supposed to be medio [center] or margined variegation .???


    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Ken, why do you go through such trouble just to water? If a tree is planted properly, there should be no need for a moat, and testing it every day, and worrying about when to water, and how much, etc. If the tree is properly planted, you just stick your finger in the ground and if it's dry water, if not, don't water.

I just watered my tulip trees until the soil was saturated and then stopped.

It is quite typical for a tulip tree to have yellowing or browning leaves when it is extremely stressed in the middle of summer. I don't know what what the crunchy brown could come from, though.

On the plus side, you can see that it had some recent growth (the green part of the stem coming from the brown part of the stem).

Making it through the winter is the big test. If it comes through in the spring, congrats!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 5:51PM
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