Why Are Some Leaves Wilting Now on a Replanted Tree?

Written by chasity goddard
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Why Are Some Leaves Wilting Now on a Replanted Tree?
Healthy tree leaves show that the tree is receiving sufficient water. (Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Transplanting a tree creates stress for the plant. When the stress is great enough, the plant suffers from transplant shock. Symptoms of transplant shock include wilting, yellowing and foliage dieback. Water stress is one of the main causes of transplantation shock. A transplanted tree needs time to establish a healthy root system in its new planting location. During this time, the roots are able to take in less water than the tree previously absorbed. Sufficient daily watering helps reduce the water stress and prevent or correct wilting in the leaves.

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You cannot remove all of a tree's roots from the ground when transplanting a tree, so a transplanted tree has a smaller root system than it had before replanting. This smaller root system can absorb fewer nutrients and less water than the previous root system, which can lead to water stress and wilting. A newly planted tree needs 1 to 2 inches of water each week until the roots have had a chance to grow to their previous size.


Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture. Mulch protects the tree from mowing injuries and helps with drainage around the establishing root system. Spread the mulch out from the base of the tree so it sufficiently covers the newly planted root ball and extends to the drip line of the tree.


Pruning a tree before or shortly after transplanting increases the stress on the plant. The tree needs leaves to create energy while developing its root system. Overly pruning these leaves will reduce the amount of energy available to the plant and will hinder root development. However, an inferior root system cannot support many leaves. When the top of the tree is larger than the root ball, the roots cannot take in enough water to support the tree's upper growth. To avoid this problem, create a properly sized root ball that matches the above-ground growth when transplanting a tree, and only selectively prune a transplanted tree to remove dead and damaged branches.


Avoid fertilising a transplanted tree for the first year. Fertiliser encourages the growth of foliage and is best applied when the tree is actively growing, usually in the fall or spring of each year. During the first year, allow the tree to establish a healthy root system instead of promoting foliage growth. Fertiliser can cause the above-ground portion of the tree to grow too large for the existing root system to support, which can cause wilting and other damage to the tree.

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