With its striking autumn colors, the cake tree is a growth-loving exotic that is extremely resistant to pests and diseases. But only if you follow some care instructions.
The cake tree is part of the Cercidiphyllaceae family and belongs to the saxifrage family. The name "cake tree" has become common because the withered leaves of the tree develop an intense gingerbread aroma. Crazy, right? Cake trees are also valued for their light wood. However, there is not just one cake tree. On the contrary - there are even many different species with different growth forms.
The cake trees originally come from Japan. There are only two wild species of the original plants. The cake trees available in our latitudes are new varieties. A specialty of the plant is the different foliage colors. If the leaves appear in spring, they have a light red color. In the summer months, the color changes to a blue-green, while the stem appears reddish. The autumn leaves are particularly colorful in numerous shades of yellow and red.
However, the cake tree only thrives when you take good care of it and recognize and fight diseases and pests in good time. The right location alone can prevent diseases.
Prevent diseases with the right location
If the plants grow poorly or tend to fall leaves, this is usually not due to serious diseases, but is due to maintenance errors. The plant has some requirements. It starts with the location. The cake tree requires a lot of light, but only tolerates little heat. Therefore, choose a bright, yet cool location for the cake tree. The cake tree likes it cooler than hot and needs a high level of humidity.
The roots also need a lot of space so that the tree can develop well. You also have to consider this when choosing a location. If the roots cannot spread, the plant remains in growth. So that it develops optimally, you should avoid planting near the cake tree, because the plant does not want any immediate neighbors.
Cake trees can also be grown as container plants. Especially young plants are used for this. Container plants should also not be in the blazing sun and must be watered and sprayed frequently. If the leaves change color, wilt and fall off, you have not met the increased water or nutrient requirements.
Meeting high demands on the floor
The choice of soil is crucial for the development and health of the plant. Since the plants prefer sandy loam soil, it may be necessary to mix clay or sand with the existing substrate. The soil should be neutral to slightly acidic. A soil with a pH between five and seven offers ideal conditions (measure the pH in the soil - this is how it's done). If the floor is too firm, the cake tree will not develop optimally. It is therefore necessary to loosen the soil. Since the cake tree does not tolerate permanent waterlogging, the water should drain off easily.
Recognize lack of water
By hanging the leaves, the cake tree indicates a lack of water. Usually there is no clinical picture here. Even if the plant sheds its leaves, it is usually only sensitive to a lack of water. If you water enough, the leaves usually grow back very quickly.
It is best to water the cake tree with a garden hose, because the leaves should also receive a shower. This way you meet the plant's need for high humidity. Also, always water in the morning or evening.
Avoid maintenance errors in winter
If the cake tree is in a protected location in the open air, no measures are necessary and the hardy plant will usually survive the cold season without damage. The cake tree in the bucket is somewhat different. The bucket offers the plant less protection than the soil, making it vulnerable to frost damage. Weakened plants are generally more susceptible to disease. Please note the following when wintering the tub plants:
- choose a bright and sheltered location
- Place a bucket on a polystyrene plate
- Wrap the tub with garden fleece
- Protect the soil with leaves or brushwood
Caution: If the cake tree is in the bucket, there is a risk that it will dry out. Therefore, check the soil regularly. Watering may be necessary, especially in dry winters.
Verticillium wilt - the deadly danger
Even if the plant is robust and resistant and spared by pests, a disease can cause great harm to the exotic. The Verticillium wilt is a fungus that causes the branches and shoots to die. Immediate action is required because an antidote is not yet known. In the case of a large-scale infestation, the only option left is to remove the entire plant.
How can the disease be recognized?
At first glance, the plant seems to lack water. The suspicion seems justified, because the fungus prefers to attack the plant in heat and prolonged drought. However, there is a difference compared to thirsty cake tree leaves. If the disease has broken out, not all of the leaves initially wither, but only the older leaves. If you react at this stage, you can probably still save the plant. In the advanced stage, the fungus will continue to work its way through the plant's aqueduct and also wither the younger leaves. If left untreated, the disease inevitably leads to the death of the entire plant. These signs indicate a fungal infection:
- withered leaves on the shoots, defies adequate irrigation
- the leaf green appears paler
- the leaves go limp
- the bark shows cracks
- thicker branches show a crescent-shaped imprint in the incision
What should I do?
Since the treatment with the usual sprays will not be successful, the only thing left to do is to prune the tree. However, you must not put the cut plant parts on the compost. The fungus can otherwise spread freely through the compost and attack other plants in the garden. After use, you should also disinfect all required garden tools.
The highly infectious fungus infests about 300 native plant species and there is a high probability that the Verticillium wilt will spread rapidly in the garden if you do not act accordingly. If this is the case, only a soil replacement would help. You would have to take all the plants out of the ground and dispose of them. This is why these preventive measures are extremely important:
- only put healthy looking plants in the ground
- Do not bring the plant too deep into the soil
- Protect roots during planting
- Avoid wet floors and waterlogging
- provide nutrient-rich soil
- water regularly
- Regularly thin out
- Treat injuries, close cuts
- Avoid over-fertilization with nitrogen