Question From: Eudora, Kansas, United States
Q: I have a mature pussy willow that is about 5 ft. tall. Ive had it many years with no problems, until this summer. At the beginning of the spring, I took the time to cut out all the dead and brown growth from the past. Mainly in the middle of the tree, where it does not get much sun. Shortly after that is when I noticed the leaves drying out and curling up with small holes in them. I have rarely had to water, but this year we did not get our normal spring rains so I have been watering fairly regularly. I also have sprayed on 4 different occasions for insects such as aphids, mites, Japanese beetles, etc. with a general purpose insecticide, and still the problem persists. I check for life in the branches and if it snaps, then I know I have lost that part of the plant, so I cut it out. It is looking quite bare at this point and Ive only a couple of large branches left. Yesterday it looked ok, but when I saw it this afternoon, all the remaining leaves were drying out and curling up badly. I might also add that it is 100 degrees today and has been very hot here all summer, so I thought it might be sun scald. But then I thought, we have had hot summers in the past and it has never acted this way. So what am I doing wrong? Is there anything I can do to save this tree? I hope you can help.
A: Pussy willows like life on the wet side so your issue with this tree may have begun with the records breaking heat last summer. When the temperatures reach into the 90s plants go dormant and we had days in 90s this spring. A heavily pruned bush has no reserves. The insecticide may have also burned the leaves. Sounds like there is not much left. Just keep it well watered and hope for the best. Do not fertilize it. Good Luck and Happy Yardening, Nancy