Cherry with yellowing leaves OK?

glieseJune 26, 2010

Hi all. I have a small question about a cherry tree I've got. I bought it from Raintree and planted it last year, the variety is NY518, and the some of the leaves are yellowing on it, one small branch completely defoliated. Is this normal for cherries getting established, or does it need something? Just want to make sure it's Ok. Thanks a bunch.

Here is a link that might be useful: Leaf pictures

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I'd say your tree is nitrogen deficient. Apply a high nitrogen fertilizer or some rich compost or mulch. If I don't feed my sweet cherries more nitrogen than my other fruit trees they start to look this way. It won't help your tree much this year but will next year.

Depending on your soil and situation you may need to fertilizer once or twice a year. Late spring and early fall are good times.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 9:53PM
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gliese

Oh good, so it can make it until next year at least, nothing too serious. I'll see that it gets nitrogen. Thanks!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:51PM
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jellyman(6/7VA)

Gliese:

I am sorry to say I disagree that your tree is suffering only from nutritional deficiency. I think it is something quite serious indeed, and that is the beginning of bacterial disease. If, after yellowing and leaf drop off, the twigs die back, you will know for sure. A little nitrogen deficiency does not have that kind of effect, and there should be no reason for a nitrogen deficiency anyway.

Sweet cherry trees are highly susceptible to bacterial disease, and can arrive already infected from the nursery. Even a competent nursery like Raintree cannot prevent this, since most of their stock is grown by contractors.

I consider it unlikely that your tree will leaf out on affected branches next spring, and believe you should prune them off now. If that means not much of the tree is left, then it is over for this tree. Strong applications of copper during the dormant season are the only way I have found to delay onset of this disease. But, sooner or later, bacterial disease finds sweet cherry trees in the mid-Atlantic climate, which is one of the reasons I no longer try to grow them. The other reasons are cracking and brown rot of the fruit right at ripening time.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 2:25AM
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wetclayz5(z5 Ohio)

The brown spots on the leaves in your photos screams "fungus!". Nitrogen deficient leaves are a nice even yellow; the pictures tell a different story.

Spray with anti-fungals ASAP.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 3:34AM
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gliese

Oh, that's not what I wanted to hear. I checked the branches, they don't look like they're dying back any (they're still full & round, not withered wood). Think it would be best to wait and watch, then really chop it good (like, just before the first infected branch) if the tips do start to die back? I hope doesn't go that way, but I'll keep an eye on it.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 3:01PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

gliese:

Your tree isn't growing much at all, 1-2 inches new growth, and the leaves are all either light green or uniform yellow. That is classic nitrogen deficiency. Adding N can't hurt at this point.

The leaves do show some spotting after they are almost dead. That is normal. Dead leaves get fungus and bacteria. That is not your problem.

Now bacterial canker could be what's going on. But that should show up as something other than what is seen in your pictures. There should be sap ozzing out at points on the trunk or limbs, or some limbs should look worse than others. But there is little you can do about that.

Apply some nitrogen. It can't hurt and might help. In a year or two you'll know if the tree is getting worse or better. Sweet cherries don't live long in your area. But if you do nothing to get it growing it might as well be dead.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 3:46PM
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jellyman(6/7VA)

Gliese:

There is one other possible explanation for the condition of your tree, and that is wet feet. Cherry rootstocks are extremely sensitive to waterlogged soil, which can kill many roots in 24 hours. After the soil dries out a little and temperatures warm up, the roots are unable to supply water and nutrients to the leaves. Cherry trees should always be planted at the highest point you have, especially if you are planting in clay, where drainage will be maximized.

It would be helpful to have an overall photo of the tree, not just one small branch. It might also help if you were to describe the planting area in terms of subsoil drainage and the amount of rainfall you may have had earlier in the season. If the soil around the tree was submerged or very wet for any period of time, drowned roots could be a prime suspect.

Even though a branch may be dead or dying, it may take weeks for the branch to actually dry out and look dead. When the leaves look like yours do, it is headed in that direction. More fruit trees (especially cherries and other stone fruits) die from an excess rather than a lack of moisture in the eastern part of the U.S.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 3:53PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Don: That I'll agree with.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 4:53PM
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cebury(9)

Other than the brown spots, I would also suspect over-watering, since all the leaves on the tree are hanging downward but do not have the dried out look yet. When the leaves of my trees start hanging off the branches, instead of "perching" I know something is wrong. That seems to be the case for my apples and sweet cherries. But I'll defer to the experts here, as I only have one growing season of experience with both.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 7:17PM
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gliese

Well, I compared the soil to the another tree, and sure enough, it was pretty moist. It is in an area that can be that way sometimes, I thought I planted it clear of that spot, but it looks like I was wrong about that, and I did a crappy job planting it too (it is a bit below the soil line). Guess I really screwed up good on this one. Think I should try transplanting it up now, or when it's dormant, or something? Anything I can do to aerate it? Maybe I should try to graft a piece to my Bing just in case? Thanks. I hope I can be as knowledgeable as you guys someday.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 8:55PM
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jellyman(6/7VA)

Gliese:

Thanks for the photo of the entire tree. That tree is gone. Learn from your mistake, and do not plant a cherry tree in a poorly drained area again. Transplanting now, practically in midsummer, is not a realistic possibility.

I would be surprised if you can grow any of the large, crisp sweet cherries where you live. I certainly can't here. Bing in the east is a non-starter. And that's even if you don't drown the roots. Try Lapins, Stella, or one of the New York selections, and plant in a well-drained area. Even these will not be easy, but they are possible.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 11:43PM
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