The Q&A Archives: No Leaves on Transplanted Cherry Tree

Question: I transplanted a weeping cherry tree last fall, but the tree has yet to leaf out this spring. Is my tree dead? The tree is at least five years old.

Answer: Transplanting a five-year-old tree is very stressful to the plant, because invariably you end up damaging many roots and leaving many of the delicate feeder roots behind when you dig up the rootball. This means that the plant may not be able to take up the water it needs -- even if you were careful to water it. Trees that go into winter while suffering water stress are also more susceptible to cold damage. Unfortunately, there is a chance that the tree is dead. However, one of the tree's survival mechanisms is to defoliate in order to conserve moisture; it would also defoliate naturally for the winter. So it is possible that it is still alive but is slow in coming out of dormancy this spring, partly because it is still trying to grow roots. Snip off a branch tip and see if there is any green inside the bark, or if it is truly all brown and dead. If the branch tips are dead, work your way back to larger twigs looking for living tissue, since it's possible that the main trunk of the tree is still alive. Trim away any truly dead wood. If there is live wood above the graft, then the tree may recover. Make sure that the soil is kept evenly moist (but not sopping wet) as you would for any brand newly planted tree until it becomes reestablished.

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