We live in Georgia. This young shade tree is about 3 years old. Last year I noticed that by July of last year I had lost most of my leaves (they turned all the way brown and fell off). This spring I’ve provided better drainage, and added mulch. It is only May and already had 4 leaves turn brown and fall off the tree. I’m afraid I’m headed in the same path as last year. I did notice a severe problem with what I think it is leaf spot. I attached a picture. Is this why my leaves are falling off? Something else? Overwater?underwater? (I don’t water at the foliage by the way) I have sprayed Neem oil. How often should I treat it w this? How else do I treat it? I’ve read I cannot kill leaf spot... thank you for any suggestions.

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[1]: https://i.sstatic.net/ftHzg.jpgenter image description here

  • looks like a fungus, when you water it, don't water the leaves. Also you should get a fungicide, maybe neem oil would be a pretty good choice if it's not hot where you live; use it in the evening at the cooler temps.
    – prospector
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 6:29

1 Answer 1


You have what looks like a red oak, from the points on the leaves and the spots on the young bark visible down low. It is fairly common for red oaks to have a largely cosmetic affliction where little brown spots appear on leaves which in most cases does nothing except look odd and potentially troublesome. It is easy to be led astray in diagnosis by these spots, so we must be sensitive to the possibility that something else is going on.

The greater concern is that the whole tree does not look as vigorous as it should for three years old. My suspicion is that it is planted in poor soil; I get this from the lack of nice shiny brown wood extending from (some, not all) the twig ends terminated by a nice cluster of healthy buds. It may have been planted carefully in year one but the roots have explored beyond the supplied root ball and have now exhausted resources there and find themselves in either impenetrable clay or sand with no means of holding nutrients. Red oak needs rich soil; I have many red oak growing on what looks like hard granite bedrock but they are constantly fed by a thick layer of leaf mould. This means they have excellent drainage but a good blanket supplying nutrients.

You mention drainage has been a problem. This could be a killer. If the tree is planted low then it looks like moving it to high ground, if possible, would be a longer term solution. Red oak will not do well where it is drowning at the roots even occasionally.

  • Thank you Mr Beckingham. I see what you are suggesting. I uploaded a picture of the tree as a whole. When I bought the tree in the pot it wasn’t thick at all, but very top heavy. I had made the mistake of not removing the support stick after the 1st year. I took it out this year. I don’t know how else to encourage bark thickness growth (it has been planted in the ground for 3 years now). It is producing new leaf growth, but the other leaves seem to be succumbing to the spots on them. I appreciate you and all the help I can get.
    – David R
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 12:13
  • The thin grass growth in that area sort of reinforces the idea that the soil there is poor. Have you tried a soil profile test, where you shake up a mix of soil and water in a mason jar to see how much grit/sand, silt and clay is present? How old is that evergreen in the middle distance? The extra pic is helpful. Don't worry about fungus right now, red oak has strong shiny leaves. Commented May 15, 2020 at 12:34
  • Ha! That little one there is actually 4 years. There is that one there and two other ones which I’m having a hard time seeing it grow. What you are suggesting about the soil makes sense. It might be affecting the other small evergreens too. The evergreens “look” good but just haven’t grown as much.
    – David R
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 13:19
  • What should be done if the soil is poor? Fertilize? I am going to concentrate on the soil on the red oak and the evergreens. Thank you.
    – David R
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 13:22
  • OK so one solution would be to treat it like a red oak on bedrock - give it a good thick layer of well rotted manure and leaves each year. Adding chemical fertilizers is hit and miss and unnatural. Same for the evergreens. Take care when applying the top dressing, the sudden growth of the branches might grab you in gratitude and not let go. Commented May 15, 2020 at 13:30

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