University of Maryland Extension

Poor Plant Care - Trees and Shrubs

poor plant care
Back to Common Problems - Trees and Shrubs

There are several factors to consider when a plant does not grow at the expected rate: it may not be fully established, it may not have received proper care, or it may be poorly adapted to the site. A field-grown tree can lose up to 90% of its root system in the transplanting process. A transplanted tree is considered established when it has recovered the root to shoot ratio it had before transplanting. Until a tree/shrub is fully established, the growth rate is slower than normal. A large tree requires a longer establishment period than a small tree, generally one year for each inch of trunk diameter.

After planting and during the establishment period, a transplanted tree needs extra care. Regular watering is important to promote growth and to compensate for the reduced root system. Improper watering (too much or too little), during the establishment period, is the primary cause of poor plant growth. Proper use of fertilizer, mulch, weed control, and pruning techniques also contributes to good plant establishment.

Trees may exhibit poor growth when they are not well adapted to a site. When you are selecting plants for a site, consider existing conditions such as soil texture, soil drainage, pH, exposure to air pollution, temperature and wind extremes, as well as proximity to sidewalks, roads, and buildings. Choose trees that are able to tolerate existing conditions. It is difficult to change existing environmental conditions, but a tree may resume normal growth if specific site problems are identified and corrected.

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