Q. We have a 9-year-old Chitalpa tree which has deeply cracked bark. The tree is in the front yard of our south facing home and provides shade. Is there anything we can do to save it?
A. This tree easily gets sun damage, sunscald, on the trunk on the west and south sides if the trunk is fully exposed to the sun. Sunscald causes deep cracks in the trunk as the trunk dies on that side and begins drying.
The trunk is dead on this side and as the trunk dries out, it cracks. It is not dead on the north and east sides and this may be enough to keep the tree alive. It is possible for the tree to recover from this type of damage.
|Not the readers tree but vertical cracks developing on the trunk due to sunburn and partial trunk death on the sunny side.|
Not much you can do about the damage already done. When growing this tree, it is best to leave lower limbs to help shade the trunk until it gets older. At this point, all you can do is make sure it has enough water and fertilize it in the spring to help it recover.
Fertilize once a year with something like 16-16-16 in late January or early February. This helps push new growth which shades the trunk.
If there is new growth coming from the trunk, don't remove it. Remove it when this new growth gets larger than pencil diameter. Otherwise, leave it alone.