Black Tartarian tree... Dead or adjusting???

mpalermoMay 2, 2012

I purchased a Black Tartarian tree about 3 weeks ago from a local nursery. It wasn't in great shape, but it was the last one they had (it has a warranty, so if it dies, I can return it). It has 4 main branches and only one has leaves. The one with leaves seem like they are slowly browning and dying off. One thing I noticed is there there are some buds that are leaving near the ground just above the graft. Can anyone tell if this is normal for the tree adjusting from shock or if the tree is dying from these pics?

Full Tree

Branch 1

Branch 2

Branch 3

Branch 4

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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

The top is a goner. Hopefully it will sprout from above the graft. I assume the tree was potted? It may have been a recently potted bare-root (a common practice in retail nurseries unfortunately) which had not adapted to the pot yet so it was on the edge before you planted it.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Yea, it was potted at the nursery. I knew it didn't look good from the start, but it was the last one they had and it had a warranty so I figured I might as well try.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 10:06AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Next time you get one of those on the edge potted plants keep it in the pot until fall, that will up the odds a bit.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 1:16PM
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I dunno, I've got my zombie cherry tree that makes me think twice before calling any tree dead.

The year I got it and put it in the ground, it stayed sort of sickly looking and then apparently died in mid/late-summer. And I mean it looked dead. All the leaves fell off, bare dry branches while the other cherry tree was doing great, I wrote it off as dead. Was too busy to pull it though, and it was around on the side of the house anyway so I just left it. Then all winter long I procrastinated because it was cold out.

The next spring it leafed out just as pretty as you please and is now my best growing cherry. It went from surely dead in the middle of the season to alive and thriving the next year. Thats why I call it my zombie cherry tree.

So I guess your options are to take it back to get your money back, or leave it in the ground until next year to be 100% that it really is dead.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 2:05PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Edy, cherries are short-season plants and they often drop leaves in August in long-season climates like ours, since they basically had as many months of growth as they are used to. That is what our trees have done; this is a different case. Once the wood has no green under the bark its dead.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 3:51PM
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"Next time you get one of those on the edge potted plants keep it in the pot until fall, that will up the odds a bit."

Is this better than planting it with the same dirt as it came in? Basically I dug a much bigger hole than the pot, then pulled the tree out of the pot with all the same dirt and put the whole thing into the hole. You're saying I should leave it in the pot even if I keep the same dirt it came in?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 8:24PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Yes, the problem is its just starting to adapt to its new spot and is not yet ready for a different soil system. Even with the same dirt the roots will get disturbed by the movement and also the in-ground spot will have different dirt around the tree which will affect it. If the pot was biodegradable and you just plopped the whole thing in then it would disturb it less - thats one reason why burlap balled trees are common in nurseries. How much difference does keeping it in the pot make? It depends a lot on the tree condition and how the tree is sitting in the pot.

One other concern for new plants later in the spring like this is you often need to shield them from the sun for a few weeks, they may have gotten a lot less sun at the nursery. I don't know what your weather has been like but one really hot day can do in a recent arrival. I lost a big potted cherry once that way, even before I planted it I fried it.

I just got a new potted cherry today to replace a dead tree. This tree was raised from when it was young in the pot so I am going to let it sit for awhile until it looks all healthy and then will transplant it in a cool spell. If a hot day shows up too soon I will erect a shade barrier. I had to shade a potted mulberry I put in the ground a few weeks ago; now its doing great.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 8:43PM
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Thanks Scott! Lots of good information there. Since one of the four branches has leaves on this tree, do you think it would help "revive" the tree if I pruned off the three branches without any leaves? Or do you think it's a goner either way?

Also, I noticed today that there are two new small groups of leaves growing at the base of the tree just above the graft. If the tree is a goner, do you think it would be worth it to try to take those and bud them onto my Bing tree (which is doing well)? I'm not sure if it's the best time for budding/grafting, but if the tree is basically dead, should I give this a shot or would it just be damaging to the Bing tree?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 10:06PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Doc, if there is something growing above the graft let it grow. You will have a new whip by the end of the year. Since the tree will get well-established as it grows back, you will be better off than waiting next year to buy a new tree. The roots are not dead, the problem is they didn't have the immediate energy needed to feed all the growing leaves on the top and so they gave up and stopped feeding it. With a good sprout from the base the tree will grow back strongly.

It doesn't really matter what you do with the dead wood.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2012 at 8:37AM
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Here are a couple pictures of the new growth at the bottom of the tree. Do they look promising?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 4:00PM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Excellent. The one coming out of the ground is rootstock, pull that up. The rest are good. You could either just keep one of the ones left, or let it grow out as a bush.


    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 8:55PM
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Great, thanks for all the helpful advice. I think I'll stick with this tree instead of returning it for another as long as the new growth does well.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2012 at 9:54PM
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