Over-watering two new Sunvalley Maple Trees??

Asked September 24, 2018, 5:49 AM EDT

I live in Canton, Michigan. The soil is largely clay. I had two Sunvalley Maple trees planted last week. The trunk size is about 3 to 3.5 inches.
They were planted on Tuesday. The leaves were green. By Thursday the leaves had begun to turn red on one tree and had turned all gold on the other. I believe this was largely due to the bad advice I followed regarding watering - I was told to really soak the trees with a garden hose for 30 min each. I did that Wednesday night and by Thursday afternoon they had very quickly changed color from all green. I am guessing that the over-watering has shocked the trees. My question is what should I be doing now to make sure the trees make it through the winter and what should I be doing in the spring. I was afraid to do anything more, I haven't done any watering since that initial over-soaking, and other than this the trees appear healthy. Some advice would be appreciated.

Carter

Wayne County Michigan

9 Responses

Hello Carter,

This sounds like transplant shock. If trees were field grown, then lifted and the roots burlaped or placed in a large container, the shock of having most of the roots cut and left behind in the field is unavoidable. Container grown trees will suffer some shock, too.

‘Sun Valley’ is a hybrid of two red maples. Red maples, Acer rubrum, grow in moist to wet soils. Keep your trees’ soil moist down to at least 12 inches, but don’t water too fast such that water runs off the surface or puddles. Check soil by digging down with a hand trowel next to roots, then refill this ‘pilot’ hole. Trees take a lot more water than you would think. You are right to be concerned about over watering — so check after watering a couple times until you have a good idea how long it takes to get moisture down 12-18 inches.

Keep trees moist until the ground freezes.

Next spring when the ground softens up, monitor the soil moisture and begin watering again. Keep trees moist all season, until the ground freezes, for the next 3-4 seasons. After that, water when we have dry droughty conditions.

Keep the root zones mulched with 3 inches deep of shredded bark or chipped wood, but do not let this mulch touch the trunks. Hand weed next to the trunk so that the trunk is not nicked, scratched or cut.

One issue with clay is the transition between the soil around the root ball and your soil. If these two soils are greatly different then water tends to not move across this change. Be sure you are watering both areas of soil.

Young trees often suffer from sunscald in winter. Loosley wrapping with a light colored trunk wrap in late fall, and removing it in spring, helps protect the bark from cracking.

The most common mistake of transplanting is planting too deeply. The root flare or root collar should be visible. Pictures of the whole trees and bases of trunks would be helpful, if you want me to check this.

You may attach up to 3 pictures for each update to this question. Choose from your photos file on your phone, tablet, or PC by clicking each of the buttons on this window that says “Choose File”

For your reference—

https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/files/article/files/treplant.pdf

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Thank you Laura for your quick response. Sorry it took so long getting photos to you but I had some technical issues.
These are photos of tree #1
1 - As it was planted
2 - the way it looked the day after over-watering - flooding it that same week
3 - as it looks now
Next I will send a photo of the base

Thank you Laura for your quick response. Sorry it took so long getting photos to you but I had some technical issues.
These are photos of tree #1
1 - As it was planted
2 - the way it looked the day after over-watering - flooding it that same week
3 - as it looks now
Next I will send a photo of the base

Thank you Laura for your quick response. Sorry it took so long getting photos to you but I had some technical issues.
These are photos of tree #1
1 - As it was planted
2 - the way it looked the day after over-watering - flooding it that same week
3 - as it looks now
Next I will send a photo of the base

Sorry - above more technical issues -
Here is a photo of the base of tree #1

Here is tree #2
1 - the way it looked when planted
2 - the way it looked several days later, 24 hours after over-watering
3 - as it looks now

Here is a shot of the base of tree #2.

It has been pretty wet here the last couple of weeks. I have been afraid to do anything with these. I don't know if I should get back to watering them now. I read a 5 gal bucket at the base with a hole drilled in the bottom will keep it wet and I can keep track of how many times I fill it - how much water I am giving it.

I don't know if fertilizer is a good idea now.

Also next spring should I look to fertilize or just the watering.

I read what you said about them being planted too deep - maybe you can tell from the photos, but I really don't have the ability to replant them and I am sure the folks who sold them to me will not want come back if you think they are too deep. I don't see anything around the base, just the trunk. I have moved some of the mulch away from the trunk as you suggested. Not sure how far down the root collar is..

Anyway, thanks in advance for your response. I just want these to make it through the winter so I can get them going in the Spring. I was alarmed when overnight they went from green to colors after I soaked them and tree #2 shed all of it's leaves soon after..

Thanks for your assistance.

Carter

Hello Carter

Thanks for the photos, this helps a lot. This looks like trees that have been freshly dug and have lost most of its roots. This is not unusual and with care they will recover.

Your pictures show both tree trunks going straight into the ground like telephone poles. This is not good. The base should begin to flare out where the largest roots begin to spread out from the trunk, sort of like your neck flares out into your shoulders. Here are some pictures—-

https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/fnr/fnr-433-w.pdf

The trees are not staked correctly- the rope should not touch the tree itself. Instead, a wide, soft strapping should be used. Also, remove the pink plastic ties, and the yellow plant ID tag. You can keep the tags with your sales receipt. Change the ropes to something like what is shown here—-

http://www.myminnesotawoods.umn.edu/2008/12/staking-and-guying-trees-best-materials-and-technique/

Dig down and check the soil moisture as far down as you can, at least 8-10inches. Keep the soil moist, even though the tree has lost its leaves. If you use the bucket technique, you need 2-3 buckets per tree to get water all the way around.

Do not fertilize now. Stressed trees do not need fertilizer unless a soil test shows a nutrient is lacking. www.homesoiltest.msu.edu

You may need an arborist to correctly expose the root flare next year ( or it could be done this year). Find a certified arborist by zip code here—- www.treesaregood.org

These trees are likely to show stress for 2-3 years because that is the average time a 3 inch diameter tree takes to come out of transplant shock. Some stress signs are less than average growth, small leaves, and early fall color. Maples are very tough, and kept moist, they usually do well.

Use light colored tree wrap on the trunks this winter, removing it in spring. Use tree wrap at least 3 winters. This thin bark needs protection from sunscald and gnawing critters in winter but, bark should be exposed to light the rest of the year.

The mulch ring around them looks good, other than touching the trunks- you are correct to pull the mulch back. Top off this mulch each year in summer, adding enough to keep it 2-3 inches deep. You can use a sharp pruning shears and clip off the small sprout ( sucker) at the base of tree no. 1

You should be able to remove the stakes next fall. When a young tree is able to sway slightly in the wind it develops a sturdier trunk, and next fall enough roots should have developed to hold the trees up. If not, leave the stakes for only one more season.

If you have issues in spring, please write again. Best to check an issue early, rather than wait.

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