Dealing with stress is difficult at the best of times. Dealing with stressed plants is a lot easier, but often the result doesn’t manifest itself until some time later. For instance, a large root about 250mm in diameter severed on a rather mature mango tree so the neighbours could install a concrete drain between properties, took five years to show the results of its stress. It simply popped a couple of very large branches (at least 6 metres long) bang on the ground.
Slowly it lost its bark and was attacked by longicorn beetles that lay their eggs and the pupae take over and do the most damage. Eventually the tree had to go.
Stress from weather events like the dry we are experiencing and the transpiration rate of a plant or tree that has diminishing soil water, is breathing like a panting dog after a run on the beach. It simply cannot cope with too much.
Then you decided to fertilise the poor thing. Do you eat when you are stressed? But generally a plant does not need fertilising when it looks poorly. Keeping up with water will do the trick.
In the mean time it will shed as many leaves it can as a defence mechanism so it doesn’t have to deal with the usual canopy of leaves. Bamboo is a classic example at the moment.
Lipstick palms need plenty of water in the withering hot and drying soils. They are a swamp palm and don’t like being planted high and dislike efficient drainage. Tree ferns are simitar, the trunk is the catch. The trunk is where the plant does a lot of its drinking. Micro sprays up and down the trunk will keep them alive or a squirt a few times a day.
This is when you know you have a good soil if it contains good quantities of humus or compostables or organic matter. It’s that matter that binds all the particles and retains moisture and nutrient.
Where soil has dried right out and has become hydrophobic (no water penetrates), try a wetting agent in a watering can and drench the soil around the base of the plant or drip line around a tree.
You can buy these at hardware stores and nurseries. If all else fails, add a couple of capfuls of dishwashing liquid to the water. It will also remove the surface tension between soil particles.