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Cherry Tree Doing Poorly- Hard Pruning?

 
pollinator
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Location: Northwest Missouri
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Northstar Cherry tree planted late April 2019. The top leafed out in the first season but the tree itself never really grew. Leaves returned this growing season, I pruned the branches that were not leafing. Then it started to dwindle this summer well before fall started, gradually loosing all leaves on top. Then it grew this side shoot above the graft.

I planted a lot in spring 2019, and all the trees and shrubs have taken hold by now except this cherry. Should I consider giving up on the top growth and prune down to this new shoot? It seems high enough above the graft to be scion and not rootstock, but I've never pruned that hard before.  If you vote prune, please suggest when (like should I wait till next spring?)

Thanks!

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Does it have good drainage? If not, you can build a mound of soil around it.

Did it have any insect problems?

Do the leaf buds look green? If not, I would prune severely.
 
Matt Todd
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Ken W Wilson wrote:Does it have good drainage? If not, you can build a mound of soil around it.

Did it have any insect problems?

Do the leaf buds look green? If not, I would prune severely.



Good drainage and even moisture this summer in my part of Missouri, hopefully yours too. No insects aside from the odd bag worm, and no buds to speak of. It's like the whole top gave up and started sprouting down low!
Maybe I'll wait till spring to see if any of the top wood buds and if I don't see anything, lop it off down to the green shoot (assuming it comes back to life in spring too.)
 
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Matt Todd wrote:I planted a lot in spring 2019, and all the trees and shrubs have taken hold by now except this cherry. Should I consider giving up on the top growth and prune down to this new shoot? It seems high enough above the graft to be scion and not rootstock, but I've never pruned that hard before.  If you vote prune, please suggest when (like should I wait till next spring?)



The exact same thing happened to me with two sweet cherries (I was thinking it may have been caused by too much water, as they got flooded twice).

I did as you are suggesting: I waited until this spring (spring 2020), after the scion had leafed out again and grew another few inches, and cut down to right above the scion. They survived just fine, and now are almost 3 ft high.

Because they aren't fruit-bearing age, I can't tell you if they actually were the same species or from the graft. Like you, it was above the graft, but only an inch or two, making me uncertain.
I figure, worst case, if it comes of fruiting age and doesn't taste good, I'd use it for rootstock for one of my other cherry trees.
 
Matt Todd
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Well here we are, 6 months later. No signs of life on the 2 feet of wood above this picture.  

The single scion bud pictured (blurry, sorry) is only a few inches above the graft, and the root-stock wood is also leafing out.

Should I cut back to just above this scion bud? Won't that just make it branch out at a weird angle?

Not sure what to do with this dang tree!  
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If you have to cut back to that bud, you could drive a post and try to train the new shoot so it goes upward. It may want to do that anyway as it will be the new leader for the plant, but there's no harm in encouraging it so you don't end up with effectively a horizontal tree. (Not that you can't have that—a stepover espalier. But I don't get the sense it's what you want.)

I just planted a Montmorency cherry and the budbreak happened starting at the bottom; top bud has yet to start to leaf out. Probably coincidental, but it's interesting to note.
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