Can my flameleaf sumac be saved after drought damage?
Good news! Lynda Holm’s flameleaf sumac in Hutto has recovered from drought stress after our advice to her last year.
Her native shrub had thrived for a few years after planting it.
But quite suddenly, in July 2014, half the leaves turned brown and withered. Lynda contacted us, wondering if this was Fusarium wilt.
We were pretty sure that this was merely another drought victim, but to confirm, I checked with Dr. Kevin Ong, with the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab at Texas A&M.
Dr. Ong replied that he’d seen a lot of drought and freeze damage mistaken for pathogenic infections that year, and agreed with our conclusion that Lynda’s flameleaf sumac was not a victim of Fusarium wilt, but was most likely struggling to survive the extended heat and drought that we were in at the time.
So we encouraged Lynda to water her landscape deeply and thoroughly, on her weekly watering day, add some mulch around the root zone, and watch for signs of recovery, which she did.
And now, a year later, Lynda has gotten back in touch to let us know that she followed our advice, and… her flameleaf sumac has rebounded perfectly!
This is a good opportunity for me to point out that, in all struggling plant scenarios, the first suspect to explore should be water. Honestly, the majority of landscape problems that I get asked to diagnose are related to water. Plants that are stressed due to watering issues are more susceptible to secondary problems, such as insects and diseases. By the time you first notice that a plant is struggling, there are normally a whole host of problems already brewing. So pay special attention to plants during drought, and perhaps even hand-water those key trees and shrubs that serve as the foundation of your landscape. And while you’re standing there, hose in hand, take a few minutes to inspect the leaves and bark for any tell-tale signs of stress.