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Gardening suggestions for yellowing leaves on palo brea trees

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: May, 2013, Page 119


Q - I water my palo brea tree three times a week for 20 minutes each. Recently, its leaves began to yellow at the edges. Does it need more or less water?

A -  Your palo brea (Parkinsonia praecox) is being watered too frequently for too short of a time period, as if you were irrigating shallow-rooted grass. University of Arizona Pima County Master Gardener Linda Drew provides the following information from the publication, Mesquite and Palo Verde Trees for the Urban Landscape, which you can download at

“Palo verde trees are extremely drought tolerant once established, but vary in their tolerance to irrigation,” she notes. P. florida is the most tolerant of frequently irrigated conditions such as lawns, while P. microphylla does not tolerate frequent irrigation, she notes. Even when tolerant of turf conditions, desert trees—including palo verdes—are not recommended in turf. The shallow, frequent irrigations to maintain turf can lead to possible tree toppling and loss.

The Arizona Arboretums’ website ( provides this guidance for watering palo brea: “Looks best with deep, widely-spaced irrigation. Water every month or two until established; then only during long droughts.” It is recommended to adjust your irrigation schedule, allowing sufficient time for water to soak to a depth of 3 feet with each application. Use a soil probe (any long, pointed piece of metal) to determine how far water penetrates. The probe will move easily through moist soil but stop at dry, hard soil.
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