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Monday, July 29, 2013

Bottle Tree Dropping Leaves Could Mean Trouble

Q. My Australian bottle tree and African sumac are shedding leaves like a maple tree during fall.  However, they are also putting on new growth.  I specifically chose these trees because they remain green all year long. The bottle tree is about 20 ft. tall, on the north side of the house and gets about 20 gallons of water every day during the summer.  The sumac is on the west side and is about 12 ft. tall and gets about the same amount of water.  I’m about ready to cut them down due this leaf shedding. Were they stressed during the heat wave or what?

A. These two trees have very different watering requirements. The bottle tree is a true desert adapted tree while the African sumac is not. Their watering needs are very different for this reason.


            The bottle tree should never get daily watering. Even though the watering needs of the African sumac are more frequent, it should not get watered daily either. It is possible that these trees are dropping leaves excessively because their roots cannot “breathe” due to excessive moisture in the soil.
Bottle tree in desert landscape
            At the most, the sumac should get watered deeply twice a week right about now. The bottle tree less often than that but when it does get water it should be deeply as well.

            Evergreen trees do drop their leaves. No plant is without leaf drop. Some keep their leaves longer than others.

            Normal leaf drop time for evergreen plants is during or shortly after new growth. As they put new growth and new leaves on new branches they drop older leaves from older wood. This is normal. However, excessive leaf drop is not. This can indicate stress ranging from drought to overwatering.

            Please get on a deep and infrequent watering schedule rather than a daily one. This time of year the only things watered daily are fescue lawns, annual flower beds and vegetables. The larger the plant, generally speaking, the deeper the root system, the less frequent the watering but the amount of water applied each time is higher.

            Frequent, shallow irrigations force roots to grow shallower and decrease their tolerance to droughty conditions. Both of these trees can develop root rot from frequent watering and death. Excessive leaf drop can be a sign that this is happening.


Bottle tree in lawn
            I would begin to back off to watering every other day for right now but increase the amount you give them each time you water. Both can handle the heat but not daily watering, particularly the bottle tree.

            Make sure the applied water is distributed evenly under the canopy either by having several drip emitters under them or watering them in a basin and flooding the basin. The water should not be applied in one location under the canopy. Back off on the daily watering. I hope they are not in stages where you can keep them from getting worse.

62 comments:

  1. I am entering this from an email that was sent to me. Please feel free to contact this guy. He is an Aussie and has a lot of experience with bottle trees.
    Att: Bob Morris…That was a great answer to the Bottle Tree query about watering.

    I grow Bottle trees……I am happy to assist with any queries you may have with Bottle Trees.

    My site is: www.bottletrees.info

    Regards, Doug Sowerbutts.

    Bottle Tree Plantations
    PH: 0412 222 535
    Email: dougs@halenet.com.au
    Website: www.bottletrees.info

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    1. When do I need to fertilize the bottle tree and how often ? And with what fertilizer?

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    2. It is really no different from other nonflowering trees and shrubs. Fertilize during the month before new growth begins. Keep fertilizers away from the trunk at least 24 inches on small trees. Placing fertilizer or manure too close to the trunk can cause leaf drop, damage to the tree and even death in extreme cases. Fertilizing once a year is enough. If you do not know your soil or conditions use fertilizer with all three numbers the same on the bag such as 16-16-16 or 29-20-20 or 10-10-10, something like that. Because it is not a tree that we grow for its pretty flowers you can actually have a higher first number, lowest middle and high last number. Examples might be 20-5-10 or 16-6-8 or 21-7-14. But any fertilizer with numbers that are high-low-high.

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    3. When the bottle tree develops pods can I cut them off because they are weighing down the branches or will this affect new growth on the tree? Also is there a difference the landscaper was telling me between female and male trees?

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    4. Cut them off anytime. Removing them has no affect on the health of the tree. In fact, if you cut them off when they finish blooming it actually saves the plant some energy.

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  2. Getting brown spots on the leaves of my Australian Bottle.These are round and leaves can have multiple spots. Is this a fungus?

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    1. You did not say where you live And this could impact the answer to your question. If you are in a very dry, desert climate we can probably eliminate disease problems on the leaves. If you are in a wetter climate than this is a possibility. This is a plant that originated in a dry climate and growing them in a wet climate may introduce some disease problems to them which they have never encountered. This means that a natural defense system was not selected for during its evolution. If this is in a dry climate such as Las Vegas then this is less likely. If this is in Las Vegas with a very alkaline soils it is possible it is a nutrient deficiency such as iron. Iron deficiency will manifest itself differently on different plants. The usual symptom of iron deficiency is the yellowing of leaves on the newest growth. On some other plants like eucalyptus this deficiency shows up primarily as leaf spotting. I guess I am recommending that you consider this might be iron deficiency and apply a good iron chelate to the soil in the very early spring just before new growth begins. The best iron chelate for this is iron ED DHA since it is effective at any soil pH unlike some other chelates.

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    2. I live las vegas , I have 3 bottle trees and the one in the middl it's leaves are turning Yellow. ...is it shedding because it's to hot or dying?

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    3. I doubt its dying but check out the things you can like look for plugged drip emitters or the middle tree is not getting enough water. But bad drainage can also cause this where water sits there in the soil around the roots and doesnt drain easily. They dont like wet feet. If this is a problem then auger or dig holes three feet deep vertically about three feet from the trunk and leave them open or fill them with coarse gravel for drainage.

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  3. My Australian Bottle Tree in the middle of my yard some of the leaves are turning brown and shedding is this normal? I live in Las Vegas

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    1. Most likely it is a lack of water. As trees get larger they need more applied water. If the tree is being watered with drip emitters, add more emitters. To see if this is the problem take your hose out there and let it run a slow trickle around the tree for several hours. Do this once a week for three or four weeks. If this is the problem you should see a flurry of new growth. If desert trees are not getting enough water they will usually start dropping their leaves. A good indicator of a desert tree not getting enough water is a canopy that is sparse. If a lack of water continues, there will be more leaf drop. If it continues further there will be branch die back. If watering this tree with a hose at its base gets it to respond then you need to add more drip emitters. Hopefully this tree is not being watered every day. That would be a mistake. This tree is from the dry Australian outback and requires deep watering infrequently.

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    2. No it's not normal. This usually indicates it's not getting enough water. Make sure you are not watering daily. Watering once or twice a week should be enough. Make sure you have enough drip emitters to support your tree. As trees get older and bigger, you need to add more emitters. Try running a hose out to your tree and put a sprinkler on the area lightly and see if the tree perks up. Another method is to get a device like a Ross root feeder, connected to a hose and stick it in the soil at several locations two or 3 feet from the trunk and inject water into the soil and see if the tree begins leaving out. If the tree is not getting enough water the leaves will drop and/or scorch and drop resulting in a thinning of the canopy. If this continues you will see branch die back. It is important to water this tree with a lot of water at one time and then hold off watering it again.

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    3. I been watering every day 30 minutes 2 times a day ..i don't know what to do ...its on a irrigation system it's 108 outside

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    4. Stop! if you keep watering it like that you will rot the roots! Let the roots breathe air or they will die of suffocation. It is like you underwater too long.

      It really has nothing to do with time...30 minutes...it is has to do with the volume of water you are applying and how often. How many gallons is 30 minutes? What area under the tree is watered? Should be AT Least half the area under the canopy. FOR SURE watering twice a day is way too often. This is a desert plant and watering once a week is about right. BUT the soil should get lots of water all at once and then hold off a week and water it again.

      Think of watering like filling a gas tank on a car. Plants withdraw water from this gas tank until the tank is half empty. Then its time to fill it again.

      The size of the gas tank is how far the roots grow out from the trunk and how deep they are.

      Your tree should have four drip emitters if it is small, eight or more if it is large. They should ve spaced two feet apart and water the area under at least half of the canopy. You probably have your irrigation set at 30 minutes. Put large enough drip emitters so that water from them penetrates in the soil 18 inches deep in 30 minutes. I cant tell you want size it is but I would guess it is maybe 5 gallons per hour emitters. In 30 minutes this gives the tree about 2,5 gallons. Running it twice in one day gives it 5 gallons for each emitter. If there are 8 emitters then it is 40 gallons total each time it is watered. Now we have volume, not minutes!

      Wait AT LEAST three days before you water again (and the gas tank is half empty). Then run it again the same amount. If you are not sure if it is wet or not, buy an $8 moisture sensor from Lowes and push the tip into the soil about two to three inches and read it. Water again when the moisture sensor is in the center (not wet and not dry). That should get you started.

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  4. I also live in Las Vegas and have a line of about 10 bottle trees. They were all planted two years ago and have been doing great. I was out of town for several weeks and just switched landscapers a month ago. When I got back I noticed that these trees have a lot of leaves dropping (not yellow, but brown and dry and dropping). The temperature a few weeks ago was in the mid 80s F and over the past two weeks the temperature has gone as high as 110 F. I believe my new landscaper just fertilized as well. I have a watering system that goes on for about 8 minutes daily. My landscaper insisted that its normal for leaves to drop due to the summer season, but I do not remember this from a year ago. There are also some other bushes that are struggling. I am assuming there is a lack of water getting to the roots....thoughts?

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    1. Not normal... YES, YOUR TREES DO NOT GET ENOUGH WATER for a number of reasons. #1, the most huge reason to why our plants suffer so horribly for last few years. In Las Vegas we are very heavily polluted with concoctions of heavy metals and very harmful chemicals - the heavy poisonous "clouds" are getting formed in all directions in the sky from the "chemtrails" "distributed" by dozens of buzzing jets that "explained" as so-called "weather modification". This terrible and illegal everyday pollutions cause all plants to dry up as huge amounts of Aluminum particulates in those concoctions causes inability to absorb water!! Everyone can be easily watch the abnormal formations in the sky sprayed from the gets, making fluffy plumages of deadly chemicals spreading in all directions for endless miles. Not only ourselves, kids, birds, animals and birds suffer tremendously, but all plants and trees. (Look at what is happening to our lusciously gorgeous before pines everywhere on the Mount Charleston!! Same tree&plants drying-up desasters we face everywhere in residential areas in Las Vegas.)

      Sorry, it is not getting any better... There is the latest, best on honest scientific research info and good advice: geoengineeringwatch.org Best!

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  5. No,it is not normal if it's getting enough water.

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  6. Hi. I also live in Vegas. My sister and I both have established bottle trees. Every year that we have those couple of weeks of extreme weather, our trees drop a bunch of leaves. I believe it is a reaction to the stress of the extreme heat. They always seem to recover. Just saying.

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    1. Thanks Carla. I was hoping this blog would be interactive and comments like yours are shared so everyone benefits.

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  7. I am in Phoenix and my very.old bottle tree also shed extra amount of leaves during very hot summer Still looks super healthy. Needs pruned as no light is getting through at all, the branches are coming down below 6'. What month do I prune?? October or January?

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    1. As you know it is a rather thin barked tree when it is young, I would wait until winter when the sun is lower, less direct and intense and temperatures are cooler. In Phoenix I would wait until December or January.

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  8. I live in Georgia and bought my first Scarlett Bottlebrush this last spring. I enjoyed the beautiful blooms over summer and it has really grown.
    During this winter, the leaves have all turned brown and still attached to the Bush. We had a cold snap where the temperature was low for a few days and we had about an inch of ice here.
    Should I leave the leaves on the Bush, pick them off or just leave them alone? The Bush is making new growth already at the top of each branch, so I assume that it is still alive.

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    1. Here in Las Vegas we dip into the mid to low 20's during the night in the winter for a few nights but this is usually just before sunrise. Plant damage from cold depends on the low temperature AND for how long. Both the temperature and duration of that temperature are important. Ice deposited on leaves and stems can be important in insulating the plant from temperatures below freezing. It just depends. The proof is in the pudding. If you see new leaves it is a good sign that the damage was just to soft tissue like leaves and maybe tender shoots as well. Strip the leaves off if you don't like the look or leave them on. The plant doesn't care. You might though. In the future, never fertilize tender plants after August 1.

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  9. Livi n Arizona one of my bottle trees leaves are curling. Any suggestions as to the cause?

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    1. The usual reasons for bottle tree problems are either soil and/or water problems. Watering/soil/root problems can show up on tree leaves. Thanks for paying attention to the tree.

      Leaves curling or rolling can be an indication the tree is not getting enough water. This can happen for 2 reasons; not enough water is given to the tree OR the tree is watered too often resulting in root suffocation, root death and the lack of water reaching the leaves.

      The usual scenarios I run into with bottle trees is watering too often and the roots suffocate and become diseased, watering often but not enough water resulting in drought, poor drainage from the soil resulting in root death and drought. Seldom do I see problems that result from not watering often enough.

      You are much better off watering this plant with too much water in one single application then you are if you are watering too often. If you are watering this tree more than once a week it might be in trouble for this reason.

      Root suffocation from watering too often or poor drainage results in a tree not securely anchored in the soil. After one year the tree should no longer be staked. Walk up to the tree and bend or push on it while you look at the soil around the base of the trunk. If the tree is not securely anchored in the soil after one season of growth, the soil around the base will move and the tree will "wobble" or "wiggle" in the soil. It will not be securely anchored. This is a positive sign for poor root development either from watering problems and root suffocation or circling roots in the container when it was planted. Circling roots is a nursery/growing problem before you bought it.

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  10. My African Schumacher is dropping leaves like crazy. Yellow leaves. My Gardner increased the watering schedule 3 weeks ago so the tree is getting watered 3times per day 15 minutes each time. However I am seeing new growth of green leaves. It's my tree dying?

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    1. You mean African Sumac? No tree or shrub should be watered three times a day for 15 minutes, not even a lawn. That is a whacky schedule. Get a different gardener. Yes, it is watered WAY too often. Twice a week is plenty provided it gets enough water each time. Root rot = leaf yellowing and leaf drop.

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  11. Hello, We are new to Las Vegas/Henderson area. Moved from TN and learning to garden all over again! Just spent a ton of money at the nursery landscaping our yard. Nursery suggested bottle trees as the area is closer to our pool (10-15 ft away) and their roots go straight down she said. They came out for site visit when making suggestions. Our 5-20 plus ft bottle trees( we bought larger, established ones for quicker privacy) have been in the ground 6 weeks. They have 9-2 gallon emitters and we water them 4 days a week for 80 minutes (temps are now 100-105). One of them have 5 branches towards to lower part of the tree that are light brown to a med brown color. I see now there are other branches mid way that are also turning light brown. Bottle branches are sagging but so are the other bottle trees. I thought it might be their nature since they are tall, slender trees. There is new growth at the top of the the tree and a small amt of growth on some branches. I’ve come across this site which I’m so grateful for! I’ve put 3” cedar mulch around them although I’ll be moving it 1 ft from the trunk because it’s 5-6” from the trunk. I did put steer manure on them and mixed it in the top 3-5” of soil before putting mulch down. I also added 2 cups or so of worm castings at the same time. I love these trees as well as my other trees and shrubs and want to learn all I can in order to help them thrive here. They were 36 Box i when they were planted 6 weeks ago so that will give you an idea of their size. Since they are new in the ground, am I watering correctly or should I back off and run the drips longer? I’ll check the ph of the soil as well as Buy something to check if the roots are indeed getting watered 24-36” deep. Suggestions? Thanks so much in advance:)

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  12. I live in the desert. Bottle trees 3 years old. I water twice a week for 45 minutes. Branches are drooping like leaves are too heavy for the branches. Tree color green. Help

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  13. I’m in The Phoenix area and planted a bottle tree 2 1/2 years ago. (Have planted bottle trees in all of our homes, 18+ years) Has grown great and I noticed last summer the leaves weren’t fully developing and very sparse. The leaves that are there have some small red/brown spots on them. I made sure to monitor the watering and the area in the yard drains well. This winter/spring I fertilized with some tree spikes and put down some wood chip mulch. Leaves are still struggling. Questions: could it be a pest? If so any ideas on which kind. Also when we bought the home we drastically changed the landscaping from desert (10” of granit everywhere) to lawn with subterranean irrigation. Our neighbors apparently had been draining their pool in this yard for, many years until we put a stop to that. It’s a DE filter pool. Could the DE have affected the alkalinity of the soil and amending with soil sulpher or iron help? Thank you in advance.

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    1. Probably one of the top trees I get questions about is the bottle tree. Many people have problems with them in the Las Vegas valley. For them, I think most of the problems are the result of very poor soils and lack of irrigation water drainage. My general feelings are that the Phoenix area soils are GENERALLY better than Mojave Desert soils because of higher rainfall and irrigation of past agricultural crops. That could all change in subdivisions that brought in "fill" to change the elevation of the property. It would be helpful to know if this property is an old existing property or if it is a new subdivision. It is also helpful to know what plants have been successful in your neighbors property. Is bottle tree successfully growing near you? I dont think this is a response to DE filtered water but chlorination of water can be problematic since chlorine is a very toxic element for many plants. But you would have seen chlorine toxicity to plants almost immediately after planting, not 2 1/2 years later. As far a pest problems go, the type of damage or dieback will tell you the location of the problem. For instance borers will cause branches to dieback or even the tree (when in the trunk) but below the damage the plant is alive. So suckers growing from borer infested trees in the trunk is quite common. If damage is all over the tree then the problem points to trunk, root or the soil. Never irrigate bottle trees daily (root rot diseases). Keep water from wetting the trunk coninuously (collar rot diseases). Decline of the tree over a period of 2 - 3 years usually points toward irrigation or soil problems.

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  14. My bottle tree trunk is turning somewhat of a burgundy color. I live in Las Vegas and they were planted just over a month ago. Some leaves are brown in full and some partially but overall seems alright minus the trunk having that reddish tone while the other 3 are greenish grey.

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    1. Hard to say without seeing a picture or in person. These are thin barked trees and the trunk and limbs will get sunburned on the upper surfaces. This is a reddish brown color.

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  15. i love Bottle Trees! And I have had two of them growing in my back yard here in Henderson for 5 years. They have been doing fine and I have them on a once a week watering pattern year round. This applies during the summer months also, but with a longer watering time. The problem I have now is a split trunk on both trees. -We are also absent for the summer months, so they have been neglected until fall. One tree appears dead above the split trunk, but with new growth at the trunk base. The other is still healthy overall, but with a split trunk at it's base. What happened?? lack of enough water, or too much??

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    1. Thanks for sharing your information. When many trees get older the trunks begin to develop furrows which is normal. If you are watering once a week, make sure you put enough water on so that it moves through the soil at least 18 inches deep. 24 inches is better. Check it with 3/8 inch rebar and pushing it into the soil near an emitter after an irrigation. Trees need more water as they get bigger and the water needs to be applied to a bigger area. At least half the area under the canopy.

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  16. Guess what, I'm in Las Vegas and having the problems too. Late Fall, Winter and Spring they are fine, but summer last 3 years (it's 2019) it's started this insane constant leaf drop with new growth replacing it, rinse and repeat, yard and pool always a mess. Neighbors does the same. They are in a raised planter with other plants, the soil out here has a lot of clay. When they filled the planter about 4 or 5 years ago, it was a mix of the native soil and mulch. Since it's in a planter with a lot of plants the whole thing has 2GPH emitters. My old watering cycle was 20 to 40 min morning/night 3 times a week. This year I'm trying 1x a week at 2 hours run time, with the other 2 days 10 min each for the other plants. Right now I'm cutting that out so it's just going to be 3 hours run time 1x a week. How much water, volume wise, do these trees require? The planter also has roses, small bottle brush bushes, fox tail fern type things, mock orange. any suggestions?

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    1. I get so many questions about bottle trees, dropping their leaves or even dying in some cases, that I'm starting to rethink some of the information and thoughts we've had about this tree in the past. But let's talk about it. First, this tree is native to Australia and grows from the humid coastal areas to the dryer interiors. But these interiors are not as dry as the Mojave Desert. It is considered more of a subtropical tree that grows in arid climates that have their seasons the opposite of ours. Another tree that comes from below the equator that grows in a similar climate but in another location is the South African, African sumac. Trees coming from below the equator typically flower at the beginning or middle of our winter. Bottle tree likes to be in full sun but in the desert that sunlight can be too intense and so we see sunburn on the trunk and upper sides of large limbs. Sometimes this sunburn is extreme enough to cause severe damage or limb death. Leaf drop in many trees is because the soil becomes too dry. In some cases there is leaf drop of trees because it's just too hot. I see this in a few variety of peaches and I suspect it in some other trees. Bottle trees produce a lot of litter that can cover the ground and provide a "mulch" that covers the soil surface and keeps the soil moist for a longer period of time. In the summertime in the desert this mulch can provide one to three days of extra soil moisture between irrigations. I would suggest that you try a couple of things. Schedule your irrigations to come on so that the soil does not become overly dry. Secondly, water long enough so that the soil is wetted 18 – 24 inches deep. Thirdly, cover the soil with 2 to 3 inches of surface mulch to retain soil moisture. In the case of bottle trees this can be rock. They will also tolerate woodchips as a surface mulch. Your choice. Schedule your irrigations to come on using a soil moisture sensor. These sensors usually have a gauge that reads from zero – 10. I will post more information on these sensors on my blog in the next couple of days. Next, leave the water on long enough so that it wets the soil at least 18 inches deep and it's better if it wets it to 24 inches deep. I use a piece of thin rebar that is 4 feet long and push it into the soil after the irrigation is finished. You can use an expensive soil moisture sensor to do this but they are not cheap while a piece of rebar is. Lastly, I would cover the soil with either rock mulch or woodchip mulch so that I don't have to water as often. Water when the scale on the soil moisture sensor is around four or five. After an irrigation the soil should be 10 on the sensor. Water at least half the area under the tree. A wider area is better but at least half.

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    2. Hey thanks. I forgot I actually had one of those industrial strength moisture meters I got a while back do to the hassle with the trees and such out here (before the yard got redone). It's about 2.5` long and can be calibrated. Last Water cycle was Monday, It's Saturday. I found the first 4" to 5" dry (and it's under rock, there is rock in the planter, hassle putting in the probe), about 9 to 10" you see it around a 4 to 5 on the meter, pushing it down further about 1.5' to 2' it's reading a 10. So it may be the clay at bottom not allowing it to drain? My scrub oak are loving it, the bay trees seem to love it. I am going to try actually cutting back to twice a week for 10min (big cut back) and monitor the soil. I see some new flower items are starting to wilt because root depth is probably not good yet. This is a lot of work! In the past I noticed the scrub oak would get stressed a little, as to the sago palms and some of the plans like mock orange. So I think I need at least 2x a week, maybe 3, but I'll have to watch the meter I guess. Thanks!!

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    3. The meter will tell you when to water and the rebar tells you how many minutes to water. I poke around a lot with the moisture sensor until I find a place I can push it into the soil 16 inches deep. I push it in slowly and look at the surface moisture and how much more moist it gets as a push it in deeper. I always do this in three or four locations, not just one. Doing it in only one location can give you a misreading. Right after the irrigation is done, then I push in the rebar or metal probe just to get an idea how deep the water has drained. I will do this in three or four locations as well because I usually hit quite a few rocks.Just be careful. Bottle trees do not like constant wet feet during the summer.

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  17. I planted my bottle tree in january and now it is getting new growth buds and then they get brown and brittle and stop growing. I live in phoenix and water once a week deep. What am i doing wrong

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    1. I wish I had a magic answer for you but you'll have to take my educated guesses on this. Your tree may still be going through some transplant shock. Transplant shock occurs when a plant must readjust for its new environment. I know 100% that adjustment of root growth from some sort of container to planting in the ground must occur. Root distribution in containers, whether they are plastic or wooden boxes, are different than root distribution after planting. The amount of time needed by the plant roots for this readjustment depends on a lot of things including changes in climate from where it was grown, how carefully it was planted, how the soil was amended if needed.The care in planting can make more transplant shock or less depending on the skill of the team planting it. If you are confident the tree was planted skillfully, and the tree has not grown much, it could be a management problem. Management primarily includes any necessary soil preparation before planting and irrigation. Transplant shock for large plants is always greater then smaller plants. So if this tree was brought in and settled in the hole with a crane, transplant shock could last months. If this tree were purchased in a plastic container and planted in the ground, transplant shock could vary from a small amount to several weeks depending on the skill of the planting team.Bottle trees have thin bark so sunburn of the limbs if the tree does shade these limbs with its leaves will add more time to the transplant shock. Make sure the soil is a drying enough before you irrigate again. It's okay to make that soil slushy the first week to 10 days to get rid of air pockets but after that you should be managing the soil moisture so that it's not excessive. These trees do not like heavy soils such as clay or silty clay. They prefer soils that are on the sandy side such as loams and Sandy loams. Purchase an inexpensive soil moisture meter that used for houseplants just to get a handle on how often to water. Consider watering when the meter reads five or four. Provide enough water so that it wets the soil 24 inches deep. Measure this with a thin piece of rebar right after you finish an irrigation. My guess is either transplant shock or water management after planting.

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    2. I just reread your comment and my best guess is that the tree is not getting water often enough. But the problem is that overly wet soils can cause the same problems as soils that are kept too dry. I would buy that inexpensive soil moisture sensor and check the soil moisture at four or 5 inches below the surface before watering but most established bottle trees I think are watered about twice a week right now. You will not hurt anything by watering three times a week as long as the soil has a chance to dry before you water again.

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  18. I had two Australian bottle trees. Well one died already so I chopped it down. The other one looked great for a couple months and now its starting to loose all its leaves like the other one did. The first one died early February through March. It's now June.I live in Phoenix. They both are very mature 22" diameter at the base. They've always lived in a grass yard with sprinkles. But I have beed doing some remodeling out front over the winter and ran all new sprinkler lines and chopped three quite a few roots. I also added a 3 in one fertilizer (scotts weed and feed for lawns) late last fall. Did I poison the trees. I did not water my yard all last winter. So I didn't rot the tree I do t think. I don't want to loose the other one. I've been running the garden hose on them at about half flow for about 90 minutes once a week. But I am watering the grass every other day for 40min. Any insight would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    1. Basic rule in horticutlure is when roots are removed to remove top growth to compensate for the loss of roots. That will be difficult for bottle trees because of their very specific form. You might lose most of the tree. It just depends what percent of the roots were removed and time of year it was done. In the future the best time to remove roots is in the early fall. Also what is not known is what percent of the roots were removed. The tree will probably die back to a point where the roots can handle the top water wise. No, adding more water wont usually help. The toos will take up what they can. The top needs wat it needs. The top part the roots cant support will die. Regrowth will usually happen where the top and roots are in a water balance. If you water too often to compensate for root loss, it wont help. There is a strong chance you could kill the tree by rotting the roots. Bottle trees are very susceptible to root diseases from frequent watering. So be careful.

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    2. to be on the safe side I would stake it so the remaining roots have an easier time growing.

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  19. Just discovered your blog...Love it! We live 14 miles East of Yuma AZ in the Fortuna Foothills. Just planted a 4 year old bottle tree and 3 year old Royal Poinciana in our South facing front yard. After living in the CA mountains for 30 years, at 5900', we are having to re-learn EVERYTHING. Fingers crossed that we can get these 2 trees going and that they will be happy. No auto watering we do all by hand. Fingers crossed.

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    1. No reason you cant water by hand. Just make sure that when watering trees there is a basin at the base of the tree that is level inside of it and deep enough to hold about four inches of water. Next make sure the basin is wide enough that it waters AT LEAST half the area under the tree canopy. In the case of more upright trees like bottle tree then it waters all of the area under the canopy. Then space the frequency when you fill this basin with the type of plant. In deserts with little rainfall like the Mojave then ignore rainfall. In Yuma you might get significant rain during the summer months.

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  20. Hello I live in Henderson, NV and have several bottle trees. Thank you, I have learned so much about these trees by reading previous posts. Have one issue I didn't see though. A couple of my trees have tops that are flopped over. Is this a watering issue? My first thought would be to give them more water. But after reading about the damage overwatering can do, I hesitate.

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    1. I don't know what you mean by "flopped over". If you could send me a picture of it I perhaps can help more. Send an email to extremehort@aol.com. If there is a problem with that email, try Xtremehorticulture@gmail.com.

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  21. Live in Scottsdale. Our bottle tree is about 11 years old, and has done well most of that time. This summer, we've had an intense one, I'm really concerned. It started having a crazy amount of leaves drop, so we started watering longer (but only once a week). However, it also gets some water when the lawn is watered, and right now, that is 3 times a week. The tree has gotten worse. I've never seen it this bad. Very, very light green leaves, turning brown on the edges first, then completely brown, and tons of leaves have dropped. I've never seen it this sparse. Are we not watering long enough, or is it getting too much water? It's been SOOO hot, we were concerned that it wasn't getting enough, but now we're not sure. The lawn sprinklers go off M, W, F, and we water the trees with a hose on Saturdays.

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    1. If the soil is full of water where the roots are then adding more water doesnt help. These trees do not like constantly wet soil and they can rot. Particularly when its hot. The only thing you can do is make sure the soil is moist...Not wet....and the soil is contribuuting to tree health. When things are not stressful then any old soil is fine. But if there ia alot os stress then plants have to be in tippy top health. Get a soil moisture meter...the cheap kind you can get for about $10 and last a few months or the more expensive kind from Lincoln Irrigation. They both have a meter that reads from 0 to 10...10 is fully wet. 0 is in the open air and totally dry. Adjust it (more expensive kind) and make sure it reads 10 when you stick the tip in a glass of water. If it doesnt, adjust the set screw in the back until it does. Then stick the tip into the soil under the tree about three to four inches deep and see what the soil moisture is. If the average of the readings is 5 or higher, dont irrigate. Irrigate the tree when the average rreading is below 5. When you irrigate, apply enough water so that the roots 18 to 24 inches deep get this water. Measure this with a steel rod or think rebar that is 3 to 4 feet long. push it into the soil after an irrigation and it should push easily to that depth. if not, then the tree is not getting enough water and water it longer. Next is soil improvement to make the tree healthier. If this tree was growing in rock then the soil might need to be improved. This can be done by dumping a one inch layer of compost on the irrigated area and water it in. It will take about one season of growth to see improvement. Look the tree branches. See if you see sun damage (discoloration) to the limbs or trunk. If you see this...and there is leaf drop...pray. Always when you water trees...give them at least one day with out water between irrigation so the roots can breathe.

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  22. Thanks for this blog. I have been back here a few times in the past few years and it always add some context to the situation.
    We currently have two Bottle Trees (Las Vegas, south part of the valley) that have turned yellow then brown in the manner of 2-3 days as a result of the 112 degree heat wave for over 10 days. These trees are against a retaining wall on the west side of the yard. We have a total of 8 trees, and only two which are the most western and northern side of the yard. But to add to this, they are the only trees which receive direct sunlight all day. The others tend to have a shadow cast on them by the neighboring trees.

    To add to this, the trees which are dropping the leaves and turning brown have the most emitters on them. Currently, they were on a 3 day a week watering schedule, 50 minutes, once per day, in the morning. The trees which tend to do better have less emitters, and are turned down to a very low setting (almost off). I am guessing I am getting some root rot, but cant be certain. I don't want to over water, but the tendency to see the heat wave makes me think they need more.

    I have some photos attached as well. The two obviously browning trees are the ones in question. I included some other trees along the south wall to show the ones which were barely watered.
    https://ibb.co/WHhz1GD
    https://ibb.co/8YqmmV8
    https://ibb.co/MSFg73c

    I look forward to your thoughts.

    -Will

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    1. You very well could be right. I was just looking at the high temps where African sumac originates (high veld of south africa) and it is certainly dry but not as hot as the Mojave Desert by a long shot. I am trying to find the climate information for bottle tree as well. My suspicion is that it is, just as you suspect, too hot for full sun in the middle of summer. Combined with the very low humidity LV gets compared to most of Arizona, it could be deadly for bottle tree. I do know in protected locations like the Springs Preserve and their bottle trees, they do well. But those locations are protected from wind, sun only at certain times of the year and a higher humidity. It would be nice if they had a recording weather station at different locations in the complex to give us that info.

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    2. That doesn't even take into consideration genetic variability of the plants.

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  23. I live in Henderson, Nevada. I have two bottle trees about 3 1/2 years old. They have always done well, but one of my trees in particular the leaves turn brown and shed during the hot summer. I water by irrigation 3 times a week for about 40 minutes in the hot summer. Water by the hose one a week. This summer has been extremely hot this year 110-113 and no rain for about 100 days or so and climbing. One tree is totally fine, the other lost a ton of leaves but does not look dead. A few plants in general are on life support due to the lack of rain. I read through a lot of post not to over water, but what time of year is best for new growth and or fertilization? In other words, will it grow back? I do not want to lose the tree. We also had 50 mph winds yesterday and that took a lot of leaves of the tree. When can I cut back branches also. Some on the bottom look like they might be dead. Help!

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  24. My 20 year old Bottle Tree looks great but it's root system is raising/cracking my concrete patio. It's on a west facing slope, approximately 6' up from ground level. The soil is DG here in Murrieta, CA and it's always been on a drop system. In the summer I water everyday for 5 minutes and in the winter every other day. If I cut the roots at ground level, before they go under the concrete, will the stability of the tree be compromised? Thanks for your time!

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  25. My husband planted a bottle tree in the front yard where we have the sewerage system, can the yours affect the system?

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    1. I am not sure what you mean by the "sewerage system". If you mean the leach field then that could be a big problem and move it to a new location. As long as the roots do not have access to the nutrient rich water then you wont see anything. But, if this tree can send roots near a sewer line and the roots WILL get thicker and POSSIBLY crack the pipe then it can cause a problem for you as the tree gets bigger. Suddenly the tree may just take off growing beautifully but create all sorts of damage for you that you have to repair. So, if the tree is near a leach field, move it. If the tree was planted within say five feet or so of a sewer line, then move it. If the tree is not near anything like that then it will be okay to leave it. These are fairly big trees. their roots can get big. If planted near a sewer line it could spell trouble down the road.

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  26. Hello! Wanted to ask can an extra hot AZ summer cause a young tree 5 gallon size, planted for about a year to get dry around just the edges of all the leaves?

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    1. Leaves that are drying around the edges means there is not enough water getting up through the plant. The reason for this can be several but it is usually something you can do to correct it. Brown edges on leaves can be from a lack of available water (not watering often enough) OR watering daily and causing root death due to root rot which they are very prone to getting. They will always perform better in a cooler part of the landscape and not a part of the landscape that is unbearably hot. I would not put them in very hot south or west locations where there is alot of reflected heat from walls or windows. Choices like the SW natives such as Palo Verde or mesquite would be a better solution in these spots as far as trees go. If you dont need trees there for shade or cooling then dont plant them there. Plant cacti and succulents instead that can handle those spots.

      Some background information and their performance in Phoenix can be found by googling Bottle Tree and ASU. An expose by Dr. Chris Martin from Arizona STate University will add some value to you.

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    2. I should add that if you are watering every other day in the summer it is possible...but less likely...that they are not getting enough water each time they are watered. A five gallon bottle tree would need between 5 and 10 gallons delivered to it each time it is watered. Make sure the minutes are enough and there are enough drip emitters and they are large enough to deliver that amount of water each time you water.

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  27. I live in Phoenix. I have two very healthy bottle trees right next to each other. Planted in 2017, from 30 inch boxes. Probably 15 feet high now. They were looking tremendously healthy this spring and through the early part of this summer. One tree just recently started looking less healthy. It can't be a water issue because the other tree is doing so well. I deep water slowly once a month. The affected tree had a significantly large “crop” of pods this year, I just removed most of them. It worries me that there seems to be some thinning and there is not as much new growth as there was previously. Also, the very top of the tree is curling, it’s almost horizontal now (about 18 inches or so). I’m hoping it is not Texas root rot? I don’t feed them often, maybe once a year with Gro Vite. They are on the south side of the house.

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