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Flowering Cherry

(August 2012)

QuestionWe live in north Boone County and have experienced two hot dry summers. We have a Japanese Cherry tree which is about 18 years old. This spring we had to remove a large dead limb from the tree which we assumed was caused by last year's hot weather. Now there is another large limb dying. When this limb is removed it will leave the tree badly misshapen. Should we remove this limb and try to prune the tree back in to a better shape or would this add to the stress. We have been trying to make sure it gets enough water but we only have a yard sprinkler and don't really know how long or how often to water. Would appreciate any advice you can give us.

AnswerJapanese cherry trees are one of the prettiest trees when in bloom, but unfortunately in our climate, they aren’t one of the longest lived trees—and that is even in years when we don’t have the type of summer we have had this year and last. They do need ample water, but remember the way to water a tree is to let it run low and slow for a long period of time over the entire area—a tree typically has feeder roots out as far as the tree is tall. Many folks are putting the hose out at the base of the tree, and while this adds water to the soil, it is questionable how much help this is giving the tree, since again, the feeder roots aren’t at the base of the tree. By now, the tree is in the process of setting flowers for next spring. I would enjoy whatever blooms it has to share next spring, and then do the shaping and corrections in the spring after bloom.

(April 2010)

QuestionI planted a four foot tall Yoshino cherry tree in September 2007. It had a fair number of blossoms the following spring. However, in the spring of 2009, it had only one or two blossoms. This spring, it looks like the same thing is happening: there appear to be only a couple of blossoms forming and the rest of the buds look like they are forming leaves. The tree gets filtered sunlight in the morning and full afternoon sun. It appears to be growing and now is over 6 feet tall. Why did it have the most blossoms in its first spring and fewer since then? Is there something wrong with it?

AnswerWhen you bought the tree it already had its flower buds set. It may have set more for several reasons—amount of sunlight it was receiving plus it was root constricted, so it wasn’t growing as rapidly, so more energy went into flower buds. Once you planted it, the tree started growing and putting more energy into growth. Cherry trees need a minimum of six hours of sun for best flowering—more would be even better. It could simply be an age factor and you just need to be patient. Fruit trees—both ornamental and fruiting forms, can take five to eight years before they come into full flowering. Fertilize with a complete fertilizer now and water as needed this summer.

(May 2006)

QuestionI planted two fairly large Kwanzan cherry trees about five or six weeks ago. They get a lot of sun and plenty of water. One of trees now has many yellow leaves that have begun to fall off. The remaining green leaves all look droopy. There were several gashes in the bark of the trunk of this tree that occurred in transport. They seem to be healing. The other tree doesn't appear to be having any problems. Should I be concerned? Is there anything I need to do?

AnswerGashes in the trunks are not good, nor desirable, but may or may not be related. Plants may go through a transition period following transplant, where they may shed leaves or droop until the root system reestablishes. By now, I would have thought the acclimation period should be ending or nearly there. The first season in the ground is a transition period anyway, so do keep up with watering--and make sure you don't overdo it, as plants can wilt from too much water the same as with not enough, and cherries won't tolerate wet feet. Back to the gashes--if the wounds on the trunk are deep and cover a large surface of the tree trunk this can lead to damage on the upper portions of the tree--where the supply of food and water is reduced. Even though you say the wounds seem to be healing, keep in mind that plants don't heal, they simply cover up the wounds. I would contact the company you purchased the trees from and let them know of the situation in case things get worse, and see what they will do for you. If the damage was done on their side, they should be responsible. For now, you have to take a wait and see approach to see what happens. No fertilizer this season, keep them watered and mulched and wait.

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