Cherry tree fruit dying

Asked May 29, 2014, 1:18 PM EDT

I have a fairly young hybrid cherry tree, planted about 9 years ago. It has been producing fruit like there's no tomorrow and we prune it annually. My problem is with the early death of 90% of the fruit it now produces. The majority of the fruit seems to wither and dye early on in the growth process. I do not spray, treat or do anything other than what nature provides, so I know the problem cannot be 'chemical'. I am simply at a loss as to what it could possibly be and the steps required to correct it.Not "all" of the fruit is affected, but well over 75% of it is, so I would seriously appreciate a valid answer please.
Thank you,Pam

Spokane County Washington fruits and vegetables

1 Response

Hi Pam,

Thank you for contacting us. This sounds like a really frustrating problem!
The bad news is that there are a number of causes for a problem like this, and it can be hard to pin it down. I would encourage you to contact our Plant Clinic by email at mastergardener@spokanecounty.org. OR call us at 509-477-2181.

The better news is, that I can give you a list of some possible causes and see if any of them might be true in your case. Late frosts can kill the fruit-producing parts of the buds, without killing the blossoms. This can occur with very low temperatures while the flowers are still in the buds, or anytime after they start to swell. If the fruit is failing from specific areas, like one side of the tree, or all of the upper branches, then this might be the case.

If the cherries are dropping very early in their development, then it could be lack of pollination from bees or pollen source from another cherry tree. Your tree used to produce lots of fruit and then it started declining. Did you have to remove another cherry nearby, or have you noticed fewer bees in your area during bloom time?

You have been pruning the tree, which is good. If the tree is pruned too heavily however, then there may not be enough leaves left. The tree needs them to produce the energy that allows the fruit to mature. At the other extreme, if you are pruning, but not removing enough, then areas of the tree may be shaded and not receiving enough light to develop the fruit. If you are losing all the cherries from the interior or lower parts of the tree, this might suggest not enough light.

Is the tree getting enough water? Lack of water during crucial periods of fruit development can also cause the fruit to drop. Checking the soil in the root zone is the easiest way to check this.

Are there any wounds on the trunk or branches that might interfere with watering transport? You might be watering the soil, but perhaps the tree isn't taking it in, or is unable to get it up to the branches where it is needed. If this is the case, you would likely see some leaf wilt along with fruit drop.

Please contact us for more information about your cherry tree, we're happy to help.