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ArborCare ArborScape (801) 972-Tree (8733)

Iron Chlorosis

What is iron chlorosis and what causes it?

Iron chlorosis is caused by the trees inability to obtain enough iron from the soil. This occurs when there is either not enough iron in the soil, or the iron in the soil is unavailable. Iron becomes unavailable when the soil pH level is high, which causes the iron to become insoluble and difficult for many plants to absorb. Iron is an important nutrient needed for chlorophyll production. A symptom of iron chlorosis is smaller, yellow leaves with dark green veins, which means there is a decrease in chlorophyll. With severe chlorosis, the leaves can turn from white to brown and there can be some twig dieback.

The first leaves on the tree may appear normal size with some yellowing, however the later leaves will be smaller and much more yellow. Also, this can occur on only one branch, half of the tree, or the entire tree. If iron chlorosis tends to be a recurring problem it could lead to the death of the tree.

In Utah, silver maple, red maple, red oak, river birch, tuliptree, sweetgum, flowering pear, and flowering plum are trees that commonly have problems with iron chlorosis, but it is not limited to these trees.

One thing to note is that there are other causes of yellowing such as watering problems, herbicide damage, and other mineral deficiencies. Symptoms of manganese and iron deficiencies are very similar. Manganese chlorosis is common in red maple and red maple hybrids.

What can I do to control iron chlorosis?

Foliar application - this treatment can be good if a rapid response is desired. It can give quick results, but tends to be only temporary as the iron can not move into the tree through the leaves, so any subsequent growth that emerges will again be chlorotic. These sprays are also messy; they will stain concrete and anything else in the drip or overspray area of the tree.

Soil injection - the iron is mixed into a liquid form and injected into the soil using a fertilization probe. Using specific types of iron, like iron chelate, adds nutrient to the soil that is available to the roots of the plant for absorption. This type of treatment has a longer lasting effectiveness. This application is best performed in the spring, but can be done later in the year if symptoms begin to develop.

Trunk injection - the iron is injected directly into the trunk of the tree by first drilling holes into the trunk. Then cartridges, capsules, or I.V. Tubing systems are used to allow the iron to flow into the xylem - the trees water transport system. Trunk injections can work well, especially when access to the root zone for soil injection is not possible. However, because of the holes having to be drilled into the trunk and the injury associated with them, trunk injections cannot be made year after year.

What can Arborcare do for me?

Primarily we recommend and offer deep root soil injections with products containing chelated iron. In instances where soil injections are not possible we can also perform direct trunk injections.

If you have any questions or would like to speak with an ArborCare representative regarding your tree care needs, please e-mail us at or call us at (801) 972-8733.


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