what to do with my dwarf weeping cherry after winter damage


I planted a dwarf weeping cherry (Snow Fountain) last summer… I am in Orillia, zone 5a. I knew I was a bit on the edge for this tree, but I wrapped it up really well for winter. Unfortunately I uncovered it at Easter and then we received a blizzard with freezing rain, so the branches that had lots of buds were covered with ice. There is no sign of any budding or life on the branches (which for the most part are still flexible and dont snap, but some of the ends seem to be brown, I havent dug into the bark much on the ones higher to the crown of the tree ie if green supposed to be alive) HOWEVER, there are very vigorous shoots with leaves coming out along the trunk. So the tree clearly is alive, I am just wondering what to do with the branches, trim them back, just leave them? Take the old buds off? Might they make new buds next time round? If I just get all new branches from the old nodes on the main trunk I think I will be fine with that. I placed it just behind a fire hydrant to disguise it a bit. Its basically in a good location, full sun, well drained soil and did do well last summer. It was just the last bit of unexpected cold weather/ice that caused the problem. Any suggestions or comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!


Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.

It sounds like your dwarf weeping cherry (Snow Fountain) has suffered serious winter damage to the branches and buds. If I understand you correctly , none of the branches have leafed out in the crown. Sprouts that you observe are not necessarily a good sign, since the tree is grafted, and the suckers you see coming may indicate that the roots are alive, but they are pushing up growth from the stock is from another species, and indicate the top is very stressed or perhaps dead.

You should determine how much life is in the crown, where the weeping branches are.   If the buds appear flat and shriveled, the tree may have died from winter stress.  Continue your investigation to see if there is life in the branches, by making a small cut into the weeping branches of the tree with a pocket knife or kitchen paring knife. Cherries, like many deciduous trees, have a green lining under the bark called the cambium. If this green lining is missing, the tree is no longer living.

If you do see some green lining in these branches, then you should prune these weeping branches back to the first side branching node, or keep cutting off segments until you hit green wood. It is possible this may force some of the auxiliary dormant buds, but in all likelihood the tree may have succumbed to a very harsh winter.

Best of luck with you tree.