Need tips on planting and caring for trees? The primary focus in care of your newly planted tree is root development. It takes several months for roots to establish and newly planted trees and shrubs do not have a very strong root system. Start by digging the hole in a popcorn bowl shape. Once planted, backfill around the root system, but be careful not to compact the soil as this will hinder root growth. Be sure to keep the topmost area of the root ball exposed, about one to two inches. A layer of mulch will be applied here.
Frequent watering is much needed, especially if you are planting in the summer. Water thoroughly, so that water percolates below the root system. Shallow watering promotes surface root growth, which will make the plant more susceptible to stress during a drought. Concentrate some of the water in a diameter pattern a few feet from the trunk. This will cause the root system to grow towards the water, and thus better establish the root system and anchor the tree.
Figure: A Traditional Staking Option. Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS Extension.
Mulch is important in the conservation of soil moisture. Pine needles, bark, wood chips, and other organic materials make a great mulch. A three inch layer of mulch will usually suffice. It’s important to keep the mulch a few inches from the trunk as mulching too close to the tree trunk can cause rot.
You should always prune the bare roots of trees during planting. These exposed roots in containers can be damaged in shipping and removing some of the roots will help trigger growth. Pruning some of the top foliage can also reduce the amount of water needed for the plant to establish, as well. Trees and shrubs grown and shipped in burlap or containers usually need very little pruning.
Newly planted trees often have a difficult time establishing if the root system cannot be held in place. Strong winds and rain can cause the plant to tip over. Avoid this by staking the plant for temporary support. A good rule of thumb to determine staking need is if the trunk diameter measures three inches or less, it probably needs some support! Tie the stake to the plant every six inches from the top. However, only tie the trunk at one spot. Don’t tie too tightly so that the tree has no flexibility. This will stunt the growth of the tree.
Following these tips will help ensure your tree becomes well established in your landscape. For more information please contact your local county extension office.
Information for this article can be found in the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “Planting and Establishing Trees” by Edward F. Gilman and Laura Sadowiski: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf%5CEP%5CEP31400.pdf
Supporting information also provided by UF/IFAS Extension Forestry Specialist Dr. Patrick Minogue, of the North Florida Research Education Center in Quincy, Florida.
Q. One of my two fig trees has produced a few figs. The other one, which is the largest and healthiest tree, has never had a fig on it. Both where planted six years ago. Why is it not producing?
Mature fig tree with fruit. Photo credit: Larry Williams
A. It may be a matter of age and being overly vigorous. When a fruit tree is younger, it puts most of its energy into producing leaves and shoots. Until the plant becomes mature and slows down in the production of leaves and shoots, it will produce few to no fruit. It may take a year or two more for your tree to slowly and gradually switch from producing mostly leaves and shoots to producing and maturing some fruit. Patience is needed.
Be careful to not overdo it in fertilizing and/or pruning your fig tree. Too much fertilizer, especially nitrogen, or severely pruning the tree will result in the tree becoming overly vigorous at the expense of setting and maturing fruit. This includes fertilizer that the tree may pull up from a nearby lawn area. A tree’s roots will grow outward two to three times beyond its branch spread into adjacent lawn areas.
The end result of being heavy handed with fertilizing and/or overdoing it in pruning is the same – it forces the plant to become overly vigorous in producing leaves and shoots at the expense of producing and maturing fruit.
In addition, the following is taken from an Extension publication on figs and includes the most common reasons for lack of fruiting, in order of importance.
- Young, vigorous plants and over-fertilized plants will often produce fruit that drops off before maturing. If plants are excessively vigorous, stop fertilizing them. Quite often, three of four years may pass before the plant matures a crop because figs have a long juvenile period before producing edible quality fruit.
- Dry, hot periods that occur before ripening can cause poor fruit quality. If this is the case, mulching and supplemental watering during dry spells will reduce the problem.
- The variety Celeste will often drop fruit prematurely in hot weather regardless of the quality of plant care. However, it is still a good variety to grow.
- An infestation of root-knot nematodes can intensify the problem when conditions are as described in item 2.
- You could have a fig tree that requires cross-pollination by a special wasp. This is a rare problem. If this is the case, then it will never set a good crop. The best way to resolve this is to replace the plant with a rooted shoot of a neighbor’s plant you know produces a good crop each year.
Spending time outdoors during the Florida summer is not for the faint of heart. It’s hot! And it’s humid! Just moving around outside for a moment in the early morning causes you to break out in a sweat. Most evenings, even after the sun is low in the western sky, but there’s still enough light to enjoy the outdoors, the sweat doesn’t stop. A Floridian’s only hope is that nearby, there is a large shade tree to take cover under. In north Florida, there’s nothing more inviting than a huge live oak draped in Spanish moss for a drink of ice water and a slight breeze. If you don’t have such a spot, start thinking about planting a shade tree this winter!
A large live oak is great for shade! Credit: Dawn Reed.
In north Florida, we have many options to choose from, as we live in an area of the United States with some of the highest native tree abundance. Making sure you get the right tree for the right place is important so make a plan. Where could this tree go? Is there plenty of space between the tree and any structures? You’ll want to give a nice shade tree plenty of room – 20’ to 60’ away from structures and/or from other large trees – to grow into a great specimen. Be sure not to place a large tree under powerlines or on top of underground infrastructure. You can “Call 811 before you dig” to help figure that out. If space is limited, you may want to consider trees that have been shown to be more resilient to tropical weather. Also try and place the tree in a way that provides added shade to your home. Deciduous trees planted along your home’s southeast to southwest exposure provide shade during the summer and let in the sun during the cooler winter. However, be careful that the tree doesn’t grow to block the sun from your vegetable garden!
A density gradient map of native trees in the US. Notice where the highest number occur. Credit: Biota of North America Program.
Here are some ideas for shade trees, those trees that are tall (mature height greater than 50’) and cast a lot of shade (mature spread greater than 30’). All of these are native trees, which have the added benefit of providing food and shelter to native wildlife.
- Red maple (Acer rubrum)
- Pignut hickory (Carya glabra)
- Green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica)
- Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera)
- Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
- Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
- Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii)
- Live oak (Quercus virginiana)
- American elm (Ulmus americana)
It’s best to plant during the winter and follow good planting practices.
Even with this young sycamore, you’ll be made in the shade. Credit: UF/IFAS.
While it may take a while for you to relax under the shade of your tree, they can surprise you in their growth and, as they say, there’s no time like the present. If you have questions on selecting or planting shade trees, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
There are often questions about who is responsible when storm-damaged trees end up on a neighbor’s property. UF IFAS Escambia County Extension discusses a few common situations using legal interpretations from the UF publication HANDBOOK OF FLORIDA FENCE AND PROPERTY LAW: TREES AND LANDOWNER RESPONSIBILITY.
Crape Myrtle season is almost upon us. Soon, every roadside, landscape, and gas station parking lot in the deep south will be lit up in gaudy colors from white to hot pink to fire engine red. A well-placed Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia hybrids) can turn even the most boring landscape into a picturesque photo op once summer rolls around. These toughest of flowering trees also ask very little of gardeners to look their best, thriving in many varied settings with a wide range of care given to them. Despite their low-maintenance nature, I see all too many Crape Myrtles languishing in landscapes. While it is difficult to fail with Crape Myrtles, it is not impossible if you site and maintain the trees incorrectly. This summer, follow these three tips to get the most out of the best small tree a southern landscape can offer.
Properly sited, pruned, and maintained crape myrtle. Photo courtesy of Daniel Leonard.
- Do not murder your Crape Myrtles. For any reason. No other tree gets lopped off each year to a random height in the belief that it makes it prettier. While your “murdered” crape may indeed produce more flowers the following season, you are permanently damaging the tree, giving rot and decay a foothold, unnecessarily making the tree more susceptible to storm damage, and ultimately shortening the tree’s lifespan. The only pruning that should be done to the species is an occasional “limbing-up” to expose the gorgeous flaky bark underneath and to remove dead or dying branches.
- Don’t plant Crape Myrtles in shade. Crape Myrtles perform their best in 6+ hours of blistering full sun per day. Even light shade at various times during the day will greatly reduce flowering, cause the tree to appear thin, and force it to reach for the sun, creating a leggy look. There are many wonderful small landscape trees like Greybeard, Redbud, and Japanese Magnolia that make excellent Crape Myrtle alternatives in shady sites. If you can’t put a Crape in full sun, plant something else.
- Keep the area under the canopy free of turfgrass. Turf is a wonderful feature in lawns, just not directly under crape myrtles. Grass does an excellent job of scavenging nutrients and water that otherwise would benefit the crape myrtle above. Also, having grass inside the dripline forces homeowners and landscape professionals to cut the grass right up to the trunk. This often leads to soil compaction from heavy mower traffic and damage from lawnmower decks and string trimmers, which damages the thin Crape Myrtle bark and can even girdle and kill the tree. Either kill out the grass and weeds under the canopy with a nonselective herbicide like Glyphosate and then mulch or plant a shade loving groundcover like Asiatic Jasmine.
Crape Myrtle is one of the most rewarding plants Panhandle gardeners can grow as well as one of the easiest. By following just a few best practices, not overpruning, planting only in full sun and keeping the ground free of turfgrass under the canopy, pretty much every landscape can enjoy success with the species. For more information on growing Crape Myrtle and other gardening topics, reach out to your local UF/IFAS County Extension office! Happy Gardening!
Crape myrtles are all around good tree selections for the landscape. When left in their more natural form with just a little selective pruning, crape myrtles can provide shade during our hot summer days. Learn the many qualities of the crape myrtle with UF IFAS Extension Escambia County.