What’s wrong with my young live oak trees?
Jennifer Valdes is concerned about one of her two young live oak trees, both planted by the builder a couple of years ago, just before she and her family moved into their new home.
In spring 2017, they noticed that one tree is very bare at the top, and that many of the leaves on this tree have brown spots on them. The other tree is showing neither of these symptoms.
Jennifer says that both trees are getting plenty of sun, the root zones are well-mulched to the dripline (but not touching the trunk), and they’re watered twice a week, with a dedicated bubbler.
All of that sounds really good, Jennifer, so my educated prognosis is that there were issues with the tree prior to planting, and perhaps that it was planted too deeply. Both are very common with newly planted trees.
Those brown spots appear to be oak leaf blister, but there doesn’t seem to be much of it, and the recommendation for that problem is to let it run its course. High humidity for months can spur fungal diseases that give way in dryer years.
Many trees planted in new neighborhoods, with newly constructed home, are rather stressed before they ever see your landscape. It’s very easy for large lots of trees to become pot-bound, since they are grown to a certain size, then not transplanted again. So they stay too long in a too-small container, while waiting to be taken to a new landscape, where they will then get the love and attention that they need. Circling roots develop, leading to sections of the tree being cut off from its lifeline to the roots that support its growth, leading to selective die-back.
You’re doing all the right things—including watering deeply—so see what happens in the next year. If the troubles continue, consider consulting a certified arborist.