Cherry-Tree Diseases

Asked February 16, 2017, 9:34 AM EST


Last spring I planted six fruit trees in my garden space, three apples and three sweet cherries. They’ve been carefully pruned (sterilizing tools between each tree), sufficiently watered and lightly fertilized. The apples are doing extremely well, with no signs of trouble. However, the cherries could be stressed.

Attached are a few photos of some potential disease. Hopefully someone can help me determine what’s going on here, though I realize it may be impossible to diagnose anything from a photo. On one of the two-year-old branches on my lapins cherry, the bark is cracked and scaly looking. I’ve been keeping a very close eye on all these trees and this condition was not present in the fall. Is this cold damage, evidence of insect trouble, dreaded bacterial canker or something else? If there’s any good news, there has been NO gummosis. Does this need to be pruned out to prevent spreading or should I just leave it alone?

On the trunk of my Bing cherry there’s a sunken wound surrounded by a bit of scaly bark. It appears to be a physical wound that has healed. Is any course of action required? Again, during the last growing season zero gummosis was present. All buds appear plump and healthy.

To keep these trees healthy, I’ve been following a rigorous spray program. Every week or two from leaf out to leaf drop they all received a sulfur-based orchard spray (the organic offering from Bonide). Also, I’ve sprayed them twice with dormant oil and some metallic copper to keep other diseases at bay. Any advice you can provide is greatly appreciated.



Oakland County Michigan fruit trees

5 Responses

A few questions:

How the sweet cherry grow in the first few months after planting? If they never grew much then the trees might have been in poor condition from the beginning. A whole tree picture or two would help here.

Lapins and Bing are not well adapted for the Michigan growing conditions, but usually it takes a few years and a harsh winter or two to start showing problems.

What were the materials used (product name), application rates, and application dates for your sprays on the sweet cherries? I am looking for some possible adverse effects of materials.


Hi Bill,

Thanks for the speedy response! The Lapins tree was most vigorous last season, putting out quite a bit of growth (the biggest tree in my photos at about 5.5 feet tall); the Bing was second, though appreciably less vigorous. It’s the short one in the middle (please pardon my crude branch spreaders and all the string; I'm trying to train these trees to a modified central leader system for space efficiency). Both of these are on semi-dwarf rootstocks, though which one(s) I have no idea. The trees were purchased at Home Depot, which may be the biggest mistake I made. The third sweet cherry I planted is a dwarf Stella, which is about five feet tall. It put out very little growth last year, though it does have tons of buds. Browsing deer and Japanese beetles did quite a bit of damage to the cherry leaves last summer, partly because my fencing was inadequate. This was corrected last fall by adding a seven-foot-tall barrier.

As for sprays, I used Bonide’s “Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray Concentrate” ( throughout the growing season, spraying about every two weeks with a recommended dose of about five ounces of product per gallon of water.

For dormant spray, I used another Bonide product, their “All Seasons Horticultural Spray Oil” ( mixed with a bit of Southern Ag’s “Liquid Copper Fungicide” ( I followed the directions for both, adding about five tablespoons of each per gallon of water.

Going forward, are there any sweet cherry varieties that do well in Southeastern Michigan’s oftentimes variable climate?

Thank you!


Here are a few more photos. I'm sorry the trees are so hard to see with the mulch as a backdrop.


Thanks for the pictures. They are quite good quality and help with the diagnosis.

I would lean toward stress as the culprit. Significant defoliation (more than approx. 30%) during the first season of growth is tough on a tree. I don't see any indication of trunk diseases such as bacterial canker. Plus we don't know how much stress the tree went through in the Home Depot system.

The other area to think about that could can cause general tree stress is too much or too little water during the growing season. If trees are planted in a pocket of rich soil, they have to be check for this possibility.

Going into next year you'll want to have little or no fruit on the trees so that the energy can go into growing the remove blossoms as you see them. Stella in particular will be gearing up for major fruit production if you let it.

You can see where you have growth starting in the spring before making pruning decisions. It may be that you have poor growth for limbs similar to the 1st 2 pictures in the first set you sent me. If you have dead areas of the limbs, try to cut to a bud where you have good growth starting.

I don't see any problems with your spray program.

I would not do anything for the gouge in the 3rd tree. If it starts oozing or getting bigger then prune it out.

Regarding recommended sweet cherries--see the following link, click on cherries and select the link "dark sweet cherry varieties" for some options. See the footnotes for explanations of ratings.

Glad to hear there are no devastating diseases present... yet. I'll keep doing what I've been doing and hopefully the trees will improve this year, though I'll make a point to keep the Japanese beetles at bay. Thanks again for your expert guidance!