Issue: June 17, 2006

Curled leaves on trees


We had a heavy rain storm the other night and my yard was flooded. Hail damaged a lot of leaves, branches were broken and some trees were blown over, and water stood for hours in some parts of my yard. What should I do to help my plants recover (if they can)?


Isn't it ironic that we live in an arid region, yet we can have problems with too much water? Although incidents of flooding tend to be infrequent and occur in relative small areas, many New Mexico communities have the potential for flooding incidents.

The hours of standing water will probably not harm many types of trees and shrubs. Some smaller herbaceous plants may have mud covering their growing points. This should be carefully removed. You can do this by gently washing it away with a relatively strong stream of water. Drain surplus water away from the plant to avoid any additional water-logging of the plants.

Small trees that blew over can be pulled upright while the soil is still wet (or you can remoisten the soil) to prevent root breakage. The small trees can be carefully staked to hold them upright while their roots re-anchor them to the soil. When staking, do not completely encircle the trunk with rope or other material that can constrict the trunk as it grows in diameter. Use a staking material in contact with the trunk that stretches and is non-abrasive (old stockings or tee shirt fabric). This fabric may be tied to wires that are then tied to the stakes. Keep the stakes several feet from the base of the trunk to avoid further injury to the roots. Larger trees that blew over should be removed. They are unlikely to develop an adequate root system if they are pulled upright.

Broken branches should be pruned out to prevent additional damage as the branches rip the bark from the trunk. Damaged leaves will be replaced by the plants. Damaged fruit on fruit trees and vines are subject to disease entry and may need to be removed.

After the soil begins to dry, proper irrigation should be resumed to allow the plants to repair their injuries. Don't overwater, but don't be surprised by how quickly the plants will need watering.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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