Q. We recently had our back yard landscaped. We had a plum tree planted in the one corner. It did okay for a few days and then it lost all it's leaves!!! It was getting water. A few sprouts from the base are coming up but nothing else. Is it dead or just been shocked from the transplant?
A. I will have to speak in generalities since I have so little to go from. Usually when a tree is planted and it loses all of its leaves very quickly it is due to some sort of shock.
These shocks can come from leaving the black plastic container in full sunlight for a day where the sun can cook the outside temperature of the container and a portion of the soil in the container to 170° F in our climate; missing an irrigation in the container when it needs it can cause leaf drop in a matter of days; planting a landscape tree from a container into hot or very dry soil can cause root dieback and leaf drop; growing a tree in partial shade and moving it to full sun can cause leaf drop; planting the tree too deeply may cause leaf drop; planting the tree too shallow with the roots exposed can cause leaf drop; putting fertilizer too close to the trunk or roots can cause leaf drop; and there are probably more that I can’t think of right now.
All of these can be termed transplant shock. The more careful you are in planting trees and shrubs the less shock the plant will have. If the tree has lost its leaves during severe summer heat than the prognosis is not good and you will probably have severe dieback.
It will be your call as to whether you want to keep the tree or not. If your growth is coming beneath the graft or dogleg on the trunk at the bottom and pull the plant out and replace it. Here is how to minimize transplant shock.
• Have the whole pre dug before you bring the plant home from the nursery.
• Plant the tree or shrub immediately when you get home.
• Never plant into a hot hole or dry hole.
• Plant in the early morning hours not during the day when it is hot or windy.
• Remove the plant from the container and get it into the hole is quickly as possible.
• Never remove the plant from a container by pulling on the stem and the yanking it out.
• Immediately stake the plant after planting making sure the state is driven soundly into the hard soil beneath the planting hole
• Make sure you plant the tree or shrub the same depth that it was in the container.
• Dig the hole deep enough to accommodate the root ball of the plant and no deeper. Taking the hole wide is better than taking a deep.
• Water the plant in the hole immediately after planting and use a hose for the first week of watering, not the drip system or irrigation system for the initial watering.