Cherry – Quick Death

Q: We purchased in June an eight foot tall flowering cherry tree. The nursery was pretty far from the house so I put the tree in the back of my pickup to bring it home. When I unloaded it, the leaves had burned edges. When I bought the tree at the nursery, it appeared that it wasn’t doing well.

I was told to get it planted and water it faithfully until it started to show signs of new growth. Over a couple of weeks it really started to take off and fill in nicely. Four weeks ago it started to turn brown and is now completely brown: no green at all.

I planted it in a big hole with plenty of soil conditioner. Could it be getting too much water?

A: Some people read my newspaper columns and think they become educated about gardening. You actually DID some gardening and have gained a great educational experience as a result! Education is not without cost, though, and I think you are about to learn a painful lesson.

My guess is that the tree was weak when you bought it. It had been at the nursery too long and they were glad to get rid of it. The windy trip home in your truck partially dried all the leaves and they fell off. The tree then used its last bit of energy to leaf out again. However, you were watering so much the roots rotted off. So it died ……and that’s the end of the story for your tree.

Now, however, you are wiser, and from this I hope you learn four things:

1. The best time to plant trees is in the fall, not early summer.
2. Never transport shrubs or trees uncovered in your truck. Cover them with burlap or plastic on the way home.
3. Watering is a matter of good judgement. Soggy soil can kill a plant just like dry soil can.
4. Good gardeners become that way by learning from their mistakes. Wisdom comes from experience. One day you and I both will be very wise indeed!

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