How to save cherry tree

(Question)

Cherry tree, planted last fall, did not survive the harsh winter of Ottawa and almost died. Now, in July, some healthy shoots are growing nicely from around the root stock, see image. The top of the original trunk is dead. What is the best way to save this tree from here on? Thanks.

dead-cherry-tree

(Answer)

There are many advantages to planting trees. They clean the air, provide oxygen & shade, prevent soil erosion and provide shelter to other animals. Planting a fruit tree has an added bonus because you can harvest the bounty of fruit it will provide.

Fruit trees consist of two parts – a scion and a rootstock. The scion or fruiting cultivar is grafted or budded onto a chosen rootstock and forms the above ground part of the tree. Many rootstocks aren’t the types of trees that produce tasty fruit, but they’re roots are better, stronger and more suited to planting. Suckers growing below the graft line or from the roots are baby versions of the rootstock, not the type of tree grafted to it.

The small, green sprouts you find growing along the base of your fruit tree are commonly refered to as  “suckers.” Suckers come up along the root line and trunk of many ornamental and fruit trees, especially if the tree is under stress.

Unfortunately, from your photo it appears as if this is the case. I suspect that your cherry tree has succumbed to the harsh winter of 2015 and what you are seeing are root suckers from the rootstock. On the bright side, this provides you with a great excuse to browse your local garden center, where you can find some great bargains at this time of year and an opportunity to try something new.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has produced this handbook for home gardeners. This Online Gardener’s Handbook Fruit Trees in the Home Garden  is a great reference, worth bookmarking.