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Gardening advice on watering Texas mountain laurel

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: June, 2013, Page 123
Texas mountain laurel


Q - My Texas mountain laurel (So-phora secundiflora) is about 10 years old. It bloomed this spring and looked green and healthy. However, it started to drop leaves, creating a blanket of leaf litter beneath the tree. When I touch a branch, leaves fall. It’s on drip irrigation three times a week for about 10 minutes. Any idea on why it’s losing its leaves?

A - “Not knowing how many emitters there are around this plant or how many gallons of water each one emits, I can only say that 10 minutes, three times per week is likely not the best watering schedule,” says University of Arizona Maricopa County Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Michelle Anderson. Such frequent and shallow applications of water allow salts to build up in the root zone, and salt burn may appear as leaf drop. Refer to the booklet Landscape Watering by the Numbers: A Guide for the Arizona Desert for guidance on programming your system. It is available from most water-conservation offices in the Phoenix area or at

In the meantime, give your tree a deep soaking to flush any accumulated salts below the root zone. Let a hose trickle slowly all around the base until water soaks through the soil to a depth of slightly beyond 3 feet. Use a soil probe to determine how far water penetrates. The probe will move through moist soil but stop at hard, dry soil. Then, do not water it for a week.
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