The Q&A Archives: Hansen's Cherry has Dried Up Leaves

Question: We have 3 Hansen's cherry bushes that I planted in the spring of 1998. All are just beginning to set fruit for the first time. My problem: One bush has dried up, slightly curled leaves on the upper portion of the two main branches as well as a white powdery film on those stems. I think this is probably powdery mildew although I don't understand why the leaves are not covered with the film. This bush is quite a bit taller and much more vertical than the other two which are perfectly healthy (so far). I blasted the whiteness off with the garden hose. But what should I do about the dried out leaves? Do I leave them on the plant, pinch them off, or do I need to prune the branches back to where there are still healthy leaves? (Would that kill the bush?)

Answer: I'm afraid I can't give you a diagnosis of the problem, but I understand your confusion -- it seems odd that the mildewy symptoms are confined to the stems. Perhaps the problem is fireblight, a bacterial disease. It causes leaves and stems to suddenly wilt and die back. If the problem is fire blight, then pruning is necessary. Before you make that move, though, call your county extension Master Gardeners (ph# 414/475-2200) or a reputable nursery in your area and ask someone to take a look at the tree and make a diagnosis. Best of luck!

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