Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

From The (E)mail Bag

Special Notice: The MRFC plans a remembrance event for Ray Jones, at Palma Sola Park. It is tentatively scheduled for 2:00 p. m. on Sunday, March 19. Details will be announced at this month's club meeting and also in an email to members.

From time to time, we receive plant questions at the fruit tree club email accounts. There isn't time to answer all of them, but once in a while I pitch in and help out. This is a recent one.

New Grower: I am a beginning gardener. I obtained a starfruit tree from an online nursery. The leaves looked slightly wilted so I may have overwatered it. The next day some of the leaves started to turn yellow and are slowly getting worse and falling off. I am now putting it out in the morning sun until noon. Is there anything else I should do? Thanks.

A: You should have bought your tree at one of the club sales, or else at a local nursery. Sorry to hear that you starfruit tree is having some trouble. Trees in containers need to be moist but not wet, and overwatering is a more common mistake than underwatering. Usually I use the very scientific approach of sticking my finger into the pot. If it feels moist, no water is needed.

What's tricky is that if the tree has been damaged by overwatering, then it's more vulnerable to underwatering than before. That's because it has root damage, and consequently is less able to draw enough water. So it's important not to overreact by underwatering. If there is any fruit on the tree, take it off. It's an extra demand that the tree can't handle until it regains its health.

The water needs depend of a container plant depend on the amount of foliage relative to the size of the pot, and the temperature. The more foliage and the warmer the temperature, the more water is needed. That's because the tree's main use for water is for evaporation to keep the leaves from overheating. You might consider some pruning--- a low branch or two that the tree doesn't need, or part of an overly long branch--- again to decrease the water needs.

Sometimes root-damaged trees will shed some or all of their leaves to protect themselves from evaporation, and leaf out after they have strengthened their root systems. I don't know whether this can happen with carambolas, but I've seen it in several species. So if your tree does lose all its leaves, don't give up until the wood is actually dead. However, your starfruit is almost surely a grafted tree (unless the seller robbed you). If the part above the graft dies and the tree starts growing back from below the graft, you'll need to send it to the compost and get another one. The rootstock will not make a desirable tree.

I would say that the half day of morning sun is a good idea if the tree is having problems. That will decrease the water needs. You might even give it sun only until mid-morning until the wilting diminishes.

Good luck with your tree, and don't get discouraged if things to go badly. All experienced growers have killed their fair share of plants!

NG: My star fruit tree is doing much better now. The leaves have stopped falling off and it seems to have stabilized. There are only about half the number of leaves as it started with, but they look healthy. I took your advice and am careful not to underwater it either. Thanks for your help.

No comments:

Post a Comment