The Q&A Archives: Declining Weeping Cherry Tree

Question: We have a very large weeping cherry tree in our front yard. It is about two stories hight. Last spring, it bloomed beautifully and was thick with leaves. Then the drought hit last summer, and we weren't able to water it due to watering restrictions. This year the tree isn't doing very well--only about half of the tree bloomed, and the other half has no leaves at all. I don't see any signs of bugs or disease. Everyone I know says to feed it with tree spikes, so I purchased some, but I don't know if I should remove all the dead branches off first. I don't want to shock the poor tree with all of this activity. Do you have any advice for me?

Answer: In general it is not a good idea to fertilize a tree that is stressed without knowing the cause for the stress. Trying to force growth in the face of an unseen problem (such as root damage or damage to the graft area, or some other physical cause, such as insect infestation or interior rot) may cause even more stress on the tree.

If the branches are truly dead, they should be carefully removed. If they are simply defoliated but still alive, then wait and see if they can manage to leaf out again. In the meantime, inspect the tree very carefully for signs of any unusual activity.

Unfortunately these trees are not always so long lived, and the drought may have stressed your tree to the extreme. You might want to consult with a certified arborist and see if they think a special nutrient or micronutrient program would be helpful and what sort of prognosis they see in general for the tree.

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