Yoshino Cherry Tree -- dead? or can it be treated ....

Asked July 20, 2020, 3:07 PM EDT

Hello - Referred to you by Sun Nurseries -- Family and I live in Olney, MD - we planted 2 Yoshino Cherry Trees in the front yard 2 or 3 years ago (purchased from Sun Nurseries) -- They are approximately 50 feet apart, both in sunny areas. One is perfectly healthy (We think) and the other has dropped all it's leaves. We are wondering if we need a replacement -- Or is it sick and is there treatment? We noticed the tree wilting a bit about a month ago -- we have been watering -- then it just started dropping leaves ... I included photos of the trunk and it appears to have some damage -- and we do have quite a few deer and I have noticed a deer nibbling on the trunk -- We do spray deer repellent often (we also have tons of Hosta, which is a favorite food) ... The spraying does keep the deer away from the hosta -- I also spray the cherry trees - leaves and trunk. Your expert diagnosis would be very much appreciated. Thank you - Christian Johnson

Montgomery County Maryland

1 Response

The tree in the left and middle photos looks like it is dead and will not recover. You will have consider replacing it.
It looks like it was not able to establish its root system and there may be several reasons why. This can pertain to to site conditions, planting techniques, care of the plants after planting, etc.

Here are some reasons why plants fail to establish.
The plants may have been weak or damaged when planted. If so, they may never overcome initial problems and will fail to thrive. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/weak-or-damaged-plants

If the plants were balled and burlapped, were the cords removed and burlap cut loose.
If container plants - if rootbound within the container - were the roots teased apart so they could establish into surrounding soil.

If a lot of organic matter was added to the planting holes, the organic matter could hold a lot of water creating a bathtub effect and drown the roots. Plants often "drown" in these holes because organic matter holds water like a sponge, while the surrounding clayey soil is slow to drain.

Planting too deep -Planting holes should be wider than deeper. Over time root balls can settle even further into the ground or plants are overmulched.
This situation can contribute to trees and shrubs having too much soil piled up around their trunk causing failure to establish, trunk damage, poor growth, and decline. A properly planted and established tree flares at the base of the trunk at the soil line where it joins the root system. In some cases, soil is piled up around trunks at the plant nursery prior to digging up the trees for shipment. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/planted-too-deeply

Excess mulch - can cause bark deterioration at the soil line, rots can grow into the mulch, Light watering may only wet the mulch layer while the soil remains dry, etc. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/excess-mulch

Watering - If there is excess mulch, a light watering may only wet the mulch layer while the soil remains dry. Daily watering is too much.
Check the soil moisture about once a for new plants week especially during dry periods. Water deeply if needed. Move the mulch aside and check the soil moisture by probing with a screwdriver about 6 inches deep and feel with your finger. Soil should be damp to the touch. Let the soil dry before watering again. See watering guidelines https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/watering-trees-and-shrubs

Excess mulch - can cause bark deterioration at the soil line, rots can grow into the mulch, Light watering may only wet the mulch layer while the soil remains dry, etc. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/excess-mulch

Watering - If there is excess mulch, a light watering may only wet the mulch layer while the soil remains dry. Daily watering is too much.
Check the soil moisture about once a for new plants week especially during dry periods. Water deeply if needed. Move the mulch aside and check the soil moisture by probing with a screwdriver about 6 inches deep and feel with your finger. Soil should be damp to the touch. Let the soil dry before watering again. See watering guidelines https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/watering-trees-and-shrubs

Trees can exude sap/gum due to any type of stress such as pruning cuts, wounds, cankers, or possible insect pests such as the peach tree borer. If you see some 'sawdust'-like material (frass) on the ground below the holes or in the sap exuding from the holes, it could be an indicator of borers. There are no chemical controls for the above.

You can check the declining tree for all of the above.
However, it looks like both trees have excessive mulch around the base and may have been planted too deeply. You can look for this and remove excess mulch. If planted too deeply, refer to the above on root collar excavation. Also, in the future you may want to protect the trunk from deer rubbing when young. To protect trunks, wire mesh or plastic wrap (that expands as the trunk grows) can be used. Larger trunks are not a target.
Water your trees during dry periods. Take a look at our website for the planting process, video (explains the process), and aftercare. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/planting-tree-or-shrub

Marian