When looking at the fruit of our labor, we always want it to last for as long as possible. So when looking at the landscaping, or in this case tree-scaping, around our homes and businesses, we want our trees to grow luscious, stay healthy, and do so without requiring a lot of extra work. There are many tricks of the trade to help ensure the longevity of your trees. Today we want to focus on Epsom salt for trees, as there tends to be a lot of questions about its use and benefits.
What is Epsom salt and why would I want to use it with landscaping? Epsom salt is the common name for magnesium sulfate, and it’s made up of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. It gained its name from the town of Epsom in Surrey, England, where it was initially discovered. Unlike table salt, Epsom salt is a completely different compound and was likely termed “salt” because of its chemical makeup and similarity in appearance to table salt.
Some studies have found that magnesium sulfate, or Epsom salt, helps increase the absorption of key minerals, like nitrogen and phosphorous. It’s most commonly used to help with magnesium deficiencies, which is why you’ll often find home gardeners adding it to their soil.
Fertilizers can also increase the levels of magnesium and other vital nutrients for soil. The concern is fertilizers can build up in the soil over time providing too much of one nutrient. The goal of any fertilization is to ensure the appropriate balance of vitamins and minerals. This helps trees and plants reach their optimum potential. Because Epsom salt isn’t persistent and doesn’t build up over time, you will find it to be a popular supplement for regular fertilizers, when used correctly.
To be sure Epsom salt will be a benefit for your landscape, we recommend having your soil tested, as well as reaching out to professional arborists, like those at Mr. Tree, to discuss the overall health and needs of your trees.
There are different recommended quantities and frequencies when using Epsom salt for trees and other gardening activities. Since Epsom salt is a granular compound, it can be used either in its dry form or dissolved into water. When using Epsom salt for trees in its dry form, we recommend two tablespoons for every nine square feet of tree bed area. When diluted with water, Epsom salt can be absorbed faster, so if you’re looking for a quick boost in your trees’ magnesium levels, dissolve one tablespoon of Epsom salt per gallon and apply liberally to the root bed. Regular application frequency is two to three times a year unless you notice visual cues of magnesium deficiency.
Trees need a balance of various nutrients and minerals. When they’re lacking this balance, you’ll often see visual cues that something isn’t right. While multiple variables can cause visual concerns (i.e., extreme temperatures, drought, overwatering), once you’ve ruled out those factors you should look to the soil composition. Some plants won’t show signs of low magnesium levels until there’s a severe deficiency. When there are changes to the leaves and foliage of your trees, this is an indicator it’s time to assess the quality of your soil and consider boosting it with Epsom salt and other nutrient-rich fertilizers.
Trees deficient in magnesium will often have yellow or curling leaves. Sometimes, the yellowing will be all over the plant or just between the veins of the leaves, meaning the veins will stay green but the rest of the leaf will begin to yellow. In some instances, the stunted growth of a tree is also a visual indicator. For fruit trees, Epsom salt supports the absorption of vital nutrients increasing fruit production and sweetness. Because of this, low harvest or fruit that isn’t sweet can also indicate a need for more magnesium.
The Epsom Salt Council has even stated that Epsom salt actually “helps seeds germinate, makes plants grow bushier, produces more flowers, increases chlorophyll production and deters pests, such as slugs and voles.” It’s even been used to help counteract transplant shock in trees and plants. Transplant shock occurs when moving plants from a pot to the yard or from one soil composition to another. When this happens trees and plants can begin to wilt and wither.
To help mitigate the shock, add a small layer of Epsom salt to the new hole before transplant, cover the salt with another layer of soil, and add the tree. If you’re concerned with adding too much Epsom salt, you can also dissolve one tablespoon in a gallon of water and generously water the hole before planting the tree. The Epsom salt will help the roots absorb the nutrients found in the soil better, which assists with overall recovery from the transplant.
The main concern with using Epsom salt for trees is using too much. Epsom salt is adding magnesium sulfate to the soil, so you need to be sure the soil doesn’t already have a high concentration of these minerals. The right amount of Epsom salt can result in increased nutrient absorption, but too much can cause rot. The best way to be sure is to have your soil tested. We also recommend reaching out and discussing your tree-scape needs with a professional, like those at Mr. Tree. However, if you want to go ahead and use Epsom salt for your trees then we recommend doing so in regulated quantities and pay attention to how your trees react.
There are many ways to help your trees live long, healthy lives. We hope we’ve been able to shed some light on the positives of using Epsom salt for trees. If you want more information on caring for your trees or want an evaluation of your yard by trained arborists, please contact us. We’re always here to help!