Early leaf loss flowering cherry tree

Asked November 2, 2015, 8:37 PM EST

My flowering cherry tree has lost its leaves early (starting in July) for the past couple of years. The tree has buds on it now and in the spring it bloomed like always. But I'm worried about its leaf loss so early. What can I do in the spring to help this tree be healthier?

Anne Arundel County Maryland trees ornamental cherry

3 Responses

Ornamental fruit trees, especially cherries, can have many pest and disease pressures, This stress can lead to early defoliation or leaf loss.
This year there was cherry shothole disease, which is fungal, but looks like someone shot holes or bugs chewed holes in the leaves, then japanese beetles feasted.... and there was lots of rain at one point, then weeks of drought after.

Next year, the best you can do is to offer supplemental water if we were to go into a period of drought. You can put a tuna can nearby... If we don't get at least an inch of rain a week (a full tuna can), it would be beneficial to give it a nice long, slow drink.

Thank so much for responding. The leaves DID look like you described. I will watch the rainfall amounts more closely in the spring and will give my beautiful tree a long drink when necessary.

My last question: Should I try fertilizing the tree? I used those fertilizer stakes several years ago and didn't see much difference. I live in Pasadena, where the soil is very sandy. I am willing to try fertilizer again if you think I should.

Thanks again!

Fertilizer stakes concentrate fertilizer within a small area and can affect the root system. We do not recommend them.
In general Established trees and shrubs usually do not benefit from fertilization. Mature trees also do not need fertilizer because as trees age and mature the growth process slows down. In the landscape, woody plants receive nutrients from lawn fertilizer if their roots are adjacent to or growing in turf areas. And nutrients are provided by decomposing organic matter such as fallen leaves, decaying mulch, and minerals in the soil. Overfertilization can make the plants susceptible to sucking insects.
In your case it sounds like you are dealing with a fungal issue and not a nutrient deficiency. The fungus overwinters on fallen leaves, and good control can be achieved by raking and removing all cherry leaves from the planting area. Mulch with several inches of mulch and keep away from the base of the trunk. Water the tree during dry periods in the growing season.