Almost dead apple trees

Asked April 13, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT

I have 3 apple trees. They are between 25-30 years old. One has come out normally with leaves and a few flowers. The other two have a couple of leaves. So almost dead. Is there anything I can do to encourage them to live? I also have a maybe 7-8 year old plum tree that seems to be dead. The suckers are still very lively. But the main tree doesn't look like it's going to make it. I live in Aurora, CO Any help to save these trees would be appreciated

Arapahoe County Colorado trees and shrubs

1 Response

Thank you for your question and for the pictures of your apple trees.

The severe cold snap we had in November caused many of our trees in this area to have symptoms similar to those shown by your trees.

You can try to find some living parts of the trees by grasping a twig and bending it, if it snaps then that twig is dead, if it bends then this should indicate still living tissue. Any area with green leaves is still alive and the new leaves will "push" out the dead leaves that were not lost last fall. Pruning will help you to know if there is live tissue in those trees that are not showing signs of growth or new leaves. It may not be possible to save the trees that are the most affected.

The following link will show you proper pruning techniques:

Additionally, please read the following passage from "Environmental Disorders of Woody Plants", Fact Sheet #2.923:

"Frost Injury

Many woody plants are damaged by early fall and late spring frosts. Depending on the time of year, frost injury is characterized by blackening or browning of foliage or newly emerged shoots and flowers all over the plant. In areas where frost pockets develop, only the lower plant parts may be affected.

Plants are most susceptible to frost injury during the spring flush of growth. Spring frost injury often is more noticeable than fall injury, especially when new shoots of spruce droop and redden or fir shoots droop and turn light brown. Flowers also are damaged or killed on plants such as lilac and crabapple. Spring frost damage to evergreens is characterized by a downward curling of shoot tips. Affected tips may turn red or brown within one or two weeks. A severe fall frost can cause serious damage or death to parts of trees that have not hardened off.

Woody plants prepare for winter as fall approaches through a process called hardening off. They reach their peak cold hardiness in midwinter. Supplemental irrigation beyond normal lawn watering is not recommended until after fall leaf drop. Do not apply nitrogen fertilizer after mid-July. This will allow plants to harden off for winter and help prevent frost damage in early fall.

Once frost injury has occurred, nothing can be done, but frost damage can be prevented. Plant woody plants only in climates where they can adapt. For sensitive plants, avoid low areas where frosts are more prevalent. Recommendations on specific trees and shrubs suitable for Colorado’s climate are available from your Colorado State University Extension county office or a Colorado State Forest Service district forester.

*C.E. Swift, Colorado State University Extension area horticulture agent, TriRiver Area, Grand Junction; W.R. Jacobi, professor, bioagricultural sciences and pest management; M. Schomaker and D.A. Leatherman, foresters (retired), Colorado State Forest Service. **A. Stoven O’Connor, Colorado State University Extension agent, horticulture, Larimer County.6/97. Revised 12/14.""

Good luck with your apple trees.