Does this apple tree need water?

If this is atrazine you still might save the tree. The atrazine will dissipate with time. Cutting the top back is a good idea. Not to late for that. I would have done that at planting.

I’m not sure about removing potting soil. Why would that be contaminated?

The reason I suggested removing the potting soil is not due to atrizine. It is because some comments in the thread are suggesting that the porous potted rootball could be pooling water since my native soil is heavy. I guess I look at it in the same light as not amending a planting hole with non native soils. Would it not help being able to get the roots into native soil rather than leaving them in the porous mix?

You can’t pull all the non contaminated soil off with the tree in leaf. And I don’t think your tree is drowning although that can be hard to distinguish from excessively dry soil. Did the rootball seem wet or dry when you dug down?

I thought it felt damp but not saturated. Good in my novice opinion.

Don’t do anything to the roots now, every disturbance will set the tree back more.

My money is still on the tree itself. You don’t know what a tree has gone through before it got to you, I have lined up many a tree in identical soil etc and watched some take off and some barely go or fail.

My curiosity got the best of me and I could not sit back any longer. The tree just kept degrading more and more. So I said what the hell. I pulled the tree out of the ground and set it in a 5 gallon bucket of water. I then took a garden hose on low pressure and rinsed out the roots to get a better look at them. This is what I found.

The first pic shows the overall root structure versus the canopy of the tree once I had cut it back by about 50%. There are lots of small thin roots with the larger tap roots on the bottom quite small.

.The next pic shows that the graft itself is extremely low to the rootstock. They must’ve grafted the scion to a short stubby rootstock. I hate this because it’s very hard to plant and keep the graft above ground but still cover the roots. Also of note is that the nursery left a piece of plastic wrapped just below the graft that was actually girdling the tree! I was able to remove the plastic but it took me a while. The plastic was durable and reminded me of the plastic associated with 6-packs of beer.
.This pic you can see a very small white bug of some type. Not sure what it is but it was all white and had a body similar to a termite or larva of some type. Also look at the texture of the main root mass.
.Lastly, here is a picture of the tree stuck back in the ground. It’s 100% native soil and I fanned the roots out widely in order to get complete coverage around them. (Helped my fig tremendously). I then clipped all the branches down to nubs but left some buds to see if it sprouts again. I know that conventional wisdom says that this tree can not survive what I just did to it and I’m sure it wont. But I look at it as a learning experience and found out a few things that make me understand why there is a lot of dislike for store bought potted trees. If it’s any consolation, when I pruned the branches back to nubs there was still green cambian.

So let’s take some bets! What’s going to happen to this tree? I say it’s a goner but nature never ceases to amaze me.

Ouch. That critter does look a bit termite-y. Certainly it looks like I can count about 5 holes that look bored/insect drilled, not just random, in which case I fear for your tree. Nasty pictures; a bit of an endorsement for bare-root, since the roots can be seen - unlike the surprises you sadly (and creepily, yech) had to discover.

Keep us posted. Good luck!

I’ve always heard that termites only eat dead wood so if those are termites I’d guess the root mass was dying or dead. Whatever the critter is I wonder what the odd are that my other trees could be effected. Would it be a good idea to out some type of granular insecticide on the ground below the trees to kill anything that may be living near the roots?

I actually hope they aren’t termites because I don’t want them near my house. My trees are planted about 80 feet from my house.

That wood does look rather deceased. :pensive: I live in Termite Central here on LI, and they are everywhere but need an established colony I believe to reproduce, get going and do home damage. A few random ones if that is what they are (or some yukky relative) I don’t think would be cause for alarm.

Look carefully at the picture. Is part of the original grafting tape girdling the tree?

Yes Auburn it is. I mentioned it above in the second pic. It was pretty durable plastic too. I pulled it on very hard without it ever stretching much or breaking. I don’t know why they would use something like that to secure grafts. It may have been one of those plastic marker tags to identify the variety. It’s hard to tell.

I would venture to say that girdling may have killed enough root wood to allow the rest of the mischief to happen.

Speed…I wish you would have gotten a close up of the insect. You don’t think it could be wooly aphids do you? They infect rootstock and look very similar to what I see in your photo, but I cannot see your bugs well enough to say. When subterranean they don’t have the fluffy look like they do above ground. Google “wooly apple aphids roots” and search images.
That was a Lowe’s tree right? If so, I’d take it back right now. Starks has a sale going and is still shipping bare root, some trees are selling for $8.99. Big cool down coming for the northeast…might be an opportunity.

I agree with Regina…good chance the girdling was the start of the whole thing,

After googling the wholly apple aphid I do not think that is what my insect is alough im known to be wtong about these things. They appear to have wider bodies than this guy. My critters were the size of a small ant.

Do you think lowes would even accept a return on this tree right now considering I painted it and butchered the limbs? I imagine they are so ignorant about what they sell they will try to say the paint killed the tree.

Here is as close of a zoom as I can get from the original picture. You can see a second insect on the left.

I absolutely think they will refund you. They will be curious about the paint, you’ll have to explain that to them maybe.

I agree with you, that bug looks different. I also agree with everyone that it looks “termitey”…lol We need a bug guy here on the forum, a real entomologist. That would sure be handy.

Lowe’s has 1 yr guarantees on their trees. Even if you kill them they are covered. The cost of returns is built into the price.

The bugs are termites, and possibly they girdled the tree; this would take some destructive testing to find out.

Lowes will take the tree back; if you plant another potted tree, shake and hose out all the potting soil it comes in and straighten out the roots before planting in your clay with no amendments.

We have huge problems with termites attacking the apple tree roots in Africa and I asked my Uganda director what they use for it. He replied that NARO (their USDA) said "10 litres of rain water and 5 litres of animal urine and 20grams of wood ash, ferment for three days and then apply appropriately in the attackable or attacked areas. A preventive approach is better, apply appropriately before they attack.


I wondered if they could be termites.
I get that SOB out of the ground and out of there asap. I’d spray the planting hole with bifenthrin and probably everything else I had too. Maybe a few sprinkles of borax to top it all off.

Lol. If I spray that suckered down how soon would you replant in that hole? My trees are all planted on 10-12 foot spacing. I suppose that termite won’t bother them unless the root dies for any reason.

That was one of the problems we ran into; there doesn’t seem to be any termite spray or treatment labeled for apples, and it’s illegal for a commercial operation to use a product it is not labeled for. In the old days you’d just dust the hole with chlordane, but Dursban is what used to be used in building foundations. Again, neither are labeled for apple. Even in Uganda they’re pushing to comply with the product label.