My fruit tree is dying.
After all the effort, buying, planting, watering, fertilising your plants, only to find that it's not looking good or even dead!
We find it's usually a combination of factors, and although we don't know what particular problem concerns your plant, these may point you in the right direction.
- Under watering. The soil needs to store water, usually with the organic matter that was placed in the hole or mulched on top. Without that ability to store, the water will just drip away into the ground, and stress the plant until the next watering. Water stressed plants will have die-back on the leaves (dead patch on the edges) or just wilt.
- Over-watering is less of an issue in summer but can pose a problem in Autumn and winter. Usually it's because of bad drainage.
- Soil - incorrect pH, inadequate soil nutrition, depleted soil all can influence the growth of the plant such that as it gets bigger and the demand gets correspondingly bigger the food just isn't enough. Solution? Add organic matter, gentle fertiliser and trace elements (e.g. rock dust) to your soil, and choose a well drained patch of ground.
- Pathogens - soil pathogens from previous diseased plants.
- Bugs - eg cherry slugs, caterpillar, fungus, etc. Often the leaf or fruit deformity will give you a clue.
- Wind - shaking the tree at the roots will dislodge and damage the tree - often wont kill it but will set it back.
- Over Fertilizing - this can "burn" the plant. Apply gentle fertiliser eg blood and bone during the growing months only, accompanied by watering.
My tree wont set fruit. What's wrong?
- Poor pollination - if the tree isnt self-fertile, it will need one or maybe two of the same family for pollination.
- Bees - there needs to be enough of these for pollination.
- Weather - often wet weather, frosts or a lot of wind during the flowering time prevents pollination and poor fruit setting.
- Climate - some trees require a certain amount of chill to set fruit. If your climate is too tropical, the lack of chill may be the problem.
- Stress - a tree thats not getting what it needs may flower but not set fruit. Water, sun, fertility, trace elements. Shelter from extreme weather and pests and diseases.
- Under-pruning - when a tree doesnt get pruned, it settles into a growth pattern that produces mainly leaf rather than flowers. By pruning the tree, it encourages it to flower and then set fruit. Dont over-prune.
- Over-pruning - sometimes a tree will react with new growth rather than producing fruiting spurs. Some pruning can increase the fruit setting by encouraging fruiting spurs.
- Over fertilizing - especially with high nitrogen fertilizers, may prioritize growth over fruit.
I planted my tree but it now wont come into leaf, what's the problem?
This can be concerning, as when spring comes, we hope that the transplanted tree will break into leaf bud and settle into it's new home. Remember the main task for the new tree is to establish feeder roots so it can supply the new leaves with nutrients and water.
Sometimes, the tree will wake up only later in spring and all that is needed is patience and a little watering to keep the roots moist. Some plants suffer from transplant shock e.g. Sloe plums and almonds. These occasionally wake up in late summer!
To tell if the tree is dead, examine the bark: dead wood will appear darker and start wrinkling. Using a sharp thumbnail, scratch the bark a little and living stem will be greenish underneath, while dead will be harder and brownish. For berries, a dead plant often still suckers from the root so don't pull it out just yet!
If your plant is in fact dead, here are some reasons why:
- the roots got dried out between opening the parcel and planting.
- the plant was not watered enough after planting.
- the soil it was planted into was poor and inadequately mulched to contain moisture.
- the soil was overly compacted.
- the plant wasn't pruned after planting, leaving an excessive amount of vegetation with a comparative small amount of roots.
- there was a problem in the soil - poor drainage, wrong pH, soil pathogens, mineral deficiencies, etc.
- often it's a combination of these factors, rarely is it just one factor.
What to do? Wait, water gently, prune. If it comes good, great. If it dies, think about what's gone wrong and try again next winter. Our recommendation is:
- don't let the roots dry out.
- dip roots in dilute seaweed prior to planting to
- plant in well drained soil high in organic matter
- mulch with compost rich in organic mater (i.e. not barks or straws)
- don't over-compact ground
- gentle watering after planting to avoid drying out.
- prune back after planting to shape plant and reduce foliage burden
- stake and protect from wild-life and support from wind
- automatic watering system to reduce human error.
- delay feeding with fertiliser only in mid to late spring once growth is occurring.
View our planting article for more detail.
Look at our disclaimer & legal to view our policy on plants that have died.