Answer: Not sure why this is. Really can’t be sure on this issue because there are so many factors.
However, the tree deserves another season. One arborist advises:
“It sounds like the wind is of concern. I would advise to deep root fertilize the tree. This will offer the tree the additional nutrients that are missing in the soil as well as aerating the root system. Watering after the fertilization is complete is important.”
Our Southern expert thought, “I’m going with hard freeze likely on young roots on fall planted tree, spring planting hit stride in opening of the season. If not sure check soil qualities on both trees. I’ve seen ph range by 1.4 only 20 feet apart.”
In the end it could also be a bad tree. It happens. A Denver arborist explains,
“I would speculate that the tree was unhealthy and less viable at the time of purchase. If the tree was purchased late in the nursery’s supply season it may have been the “runt of the litter” (even at 12′ tall and 3″ dia), I have seen this trend at several local nurseries, even with larger trees. The better looking ones get sold first and the runty ones sit around forever until they get sold as clearance stock could be as much as 2 or 3 years if the nursery doesn’t rotate there stock well. Also if the tree was purchased from a “big box store” nursery or a “general garden” nursery, it may not have had the best life prolonging conditions over the summer season ( i.e not being watered properly , or sitting in the middle of an open uncovered parking lot like at home depot.)”
Full question: I have two Northern Red Oaks of the same age that I planted three months apart, the first three falls ago. When I purchased them both were approximately 12 feet tall with trunks between 2″ and 3″ in diameter.)
I planted the first in the fall, on the north side of the house, and the other in the spring on the west side. Both get full sun almost the entire day (we live on a ridge top on a small horse farm); the prevailing winds vary between southwest and northwest. The first one I planted does not seem to be doing nearly as well as the second. The only symptom I can cite is that it doesn’t seem to leaf out as fully as the other, and its leaves are smaller and not as healthy looking. I haven’t been able to detect any pests, and today I dug around the original planting line to see if it were being encircled by its own roots; it isn’t. Any thoughts?