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Monday, May 27, 2013

Bottle Tree With Dying Branches

Q. Our bottle tree branches are getting dried and  one side of the branches died 2 years ago. I am enclosing photos of the tree. Can you tell what is wrong with this tree? We love this tree very much. Is there any way to keep the tree from dying?
Bottle tree with dying branches.

A. There are two main problems that can develop on bottle tree; those are sunscald on the smooth branches and trunk if put into very intense sunlight and root death due to too much or too frequent watering.

Trunk of bottle tree
            We must also remember that their smooth green trunk and limbs get brown and furrowed with age so there is a natural progression from green and smooth to brown and furrowed. This must not be confused with brown and dead or dying.

            Some of the pictures you sent seems to show much of the dead parts of the limbs are on the upper surfaces of the limbs which kind of points to sunburning. This can lead to limb dieback.

Upper canopy of bottle tree.
            It is important for this tree to maintain a full canopy to shade the limbs. Most of this type of damage might be on the side facing the most intense sunlight which is on the upper sides of limbs particularly on the south and west sides of the tree. If someone got in there and pruned them improperly this could cause a lack of shading and sunburn with limb dieback.

            The other possibility is root rots due to frequent irrigations and not letting the soil dry out between irrigations. This plant comes from semi-arid (but not necessarily desert) regions of Australia. They will tolerate lawns but the soil must drain quickly.

            All you can do now is to remove dead limbs, keep it watered adequately but not excessively and fertilize once a year in the early spring. Surface wood mulches will help as well.

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