Plant Problems - Leaf Scorch

by Carter Westerhold
Summers in Southern Idaho are notoriously hot, dry, and windy. These conditions are perfect for causing leaf scorch.
Leaf scorch isn't a disease, but rather a response to the environment. When a plant is losing more water than it can take in, the leaf edges start to dry up and turn brown. If left untreated, the entire leaf can die, slowing down the plants growth and causing further stress.

Leaf scorch is most common in newly transplanted plants but can still occur in established trees. Your main goal should be to increase the plant's root system to allow them to find water easier.

Ways to increase the root system and prevent leaf scorch in the future:

  • Keep trees well watered during the summer, especially during periods of heat, intense sunlight and high winds. Deep watering is key. Sprinklers are not sufficient in watering trees and shrubs.
    • Newly planted material will need to be watered 2-3 times weekly for the first 2-3 years during the entire summer.
    • Older trees 5-10 years old may need to be watered once a week as well, but only during times of extreme heat.
  • Improve the soil's ability to hold water for longer periods of time with 2-3'' of mulch. *Be sure to keep mulch away from the trunk of the tree.

A properly mulched tree (Photo Courtesy of U of Minnesota Extension)

    • Sometimes, leaf scorch is a response to a combination of water stress and a nutrient deficiency. Iron is a common deficiency, characterized by yellow leaves and green veins. 6% Chelated Iron can help the situation.
    • Encourage root growth with a root stimulating fertilizer, or any high phosphorus product like natural bone meal.

         Leaf Scorch & Iron Deficiency on Red Oak. (Photo Courtesy of Utah State University)Leaf Scorch on Norway Maple (Photo by Carter W.)


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