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Mugo pine dying buds

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I've always repotted mugos in August, well after all new growth is hardened. Even at that, I lost one after doing some light root work and returning it to the same (relatively) shallow pot that it had been in for the previous three years. It suddenly started getting that lifeless grey overtone in the needles, not long after the repot. I lost another that I dug from the grow bed this past August. Otherwise, I've not been the least bit careful about the roots and the mugos have thrived (6 various cultivars of various sizes). The only thing that I can identify to have possibly been the cause is being potted deeply in relatively shallow pots.

My suggestion is that you keep the pot tilted15 to 30 degrees and return it to shade for a little while. Once buds stop withering, or it seems healthy despite the buds not moving, return it to full sun, but continue keeping it tilted. As long as the needles stay their normal bright green, it will be okay. Mugo needles last about 5 years and you can normally prune all the new shoot (just like JBP candle pruning) after it has hardened for 3-4 years in a row (it will back bud strongly). So, not to worry about the buds - worry more about the needle color. This may well not be what your tree is suffering from, but it will do no harm if I am wrong.

The catch-22 about root issues is that there is insufficient capacity to supply the foliage, so the foliage doesn't conduct as much photosynthesis, but this means lowered food/material and stimulus for root growth. So we must reduce the transpirational stress (shade and/or humidity tent) to get the foliage working, which then gets the roots growing, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, investigate the possibilities that pathogens involved further. Maybe someone else who has dealt with trouble similar to what your tree is experiencing will offer some insight into what is actually going on with your mugo.

Owen Reich:
Mugos have not always performed well in GA (I'm from Acworth).  They don't particularly like the mild winters or high humidity.  You may be better off focusing on other pine species.  By no means should you give up on this one.  Just something to consider.

I've seen and heard about a number of Mugos living for 3-5 years in GA, then dying or slowly declining.

Thanks Owen,

It's the only one I have and it was a well meant gift.  I'm trying to make the best of it.  At the very least, I'm learning some things.  My other pines are JBP and a few natives (loblolly, virginia).  Everything else is really healthy despite fighting off some needle cast on one last year.


One more thought, twigboy.

Tree roots stop growing at temperatures around 95F (and above). You might stick a meat thermometer (steal the one from your kitchen - sterilize with alcohol and wash afterward - or buy one for less than $15 at the grocery/hardware store) at various points in the soil around the pot. Do whatever you can to keep the roots below 85F. A light colored wet towel can be wrapped around the pot and cover the soil surface to reduce solar heating and to effectively make a swamp cooler, for example. As long as your air temps aren't much over 95F, I think it will be best to keep it in full sun, but you may need to seek some shade in order to keep the roots cool, anyway.

Keep us posted.

M. Frary:
  Sounds like it may be going zombie. Not alive yet not dead. It happens if you mess with mugo roots in the spring. I had one do it and Vance has seen it too. If it doesn't die outright this year there is hope it will grow next year.
  This is not me joking. Zombie mugos are real.


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