Last month, I had the shocking realization that my plum tree was dying. The reason this was so shocking is that it has stood in my garden for more than twenty years without issues. It has given us plums every summer, and has required little more than occasional pruning and watering during the dry months.
There are a few possible reasons a fruit tree starts dying. For a start, you need to know how to safely prune your trees, or you may accidentally kickstart their early demise. The more common reasons include over- and under-watering, pests and diseases, environmental stress, and lack of nutrients.
It wasn’t too difficult to figure out what was going wrong with our plum tree. The weather has been abnormal over the past year, with far more rain than usual during the wet seasons and continued precipitation during the dry seasons. It was both receiving too much water and struggling to deal with the cold caused by water during the barren winter.
Diagnosing the problem is the first step, after which you need to figure out how to save it. Here are some tips for each of the 4 potential issues your tree faces.
1. Over- or under-watering
To determine whether your fruit tree has been over- or under-watered, push a finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If it is dry, it needs water. Under-watering is probably the best problem to have, as it is simple to remedy. Simply add water and continue to monitor it.
But what if the soil is already soaked and your tree is still struggling, losing leaves and dropping flowers and unripe fruit? In this case, you are likely over-watering. This is more difficult to remedy, but you should definitely be able to save it.
You should first determine if there is an underlying problem, especially if you haven’t actually been watering it all that much. Is the soil still soaking even though it’s been an hour or more since you last watered? If so, your soil is struggling to drain. The best solution is to add new soil and compost atop your current soil.
Over time, continue to add compost and mulch to improve the drainage of your soil.
2. Pests and diseases
It is possible that your tree is falling victim to pests or diseases. This is all the more likely if you are trying to avoid toxic pesticides and haven’t found effective alternatives. Determining that your tree is dying because of pests or diseases, as well as diagnosing the exact problem, is very difficult to do on your own.
Fortunately, there are apps which do a pretty good job at diagnosing plant problems these days. Try Agrio, Leaf Doctor, Plantix, or one of the many alternatives. Each disease or pest requires specific treatment. Double check the results you get on the app by looking online at plants with similar problems and comparing them to your own.
3. Environmental stress
Environmental stress refers to any issues that come about due to abnormalities in the plant’s immediate environment. If you recently transplanted your fruit tree, this could well be the reason it is struggling. You may have followed all the best tips, but there is always danger when transplanting a fruit tree.
In these cases, there is not much you can do other than give it the best possible care from here on out. Many trees react badly to the stress but recover over time.
Other types of environmental stress have to do with abnormal weather conditions. My plum tree was suffering from the abnormality of cold rain in the dry seasons and the over-abundance of water during the wet seasons. Similar issues include unusually hot or cold weather.
If the weather is hotter than usual, apply about two inches of compost and mulch to the tree’s soil. Give it some extra water as well. If possible, give your fruit tree some shade from the sun at its most scorching hours.
If the weather is colder than usual, a deciduous tree should simply remain dormant throughout the winter. Evergreen trees, however, should be protected from the extreme cold as much as possible. You should find covering for your trees at your local garden shop that will protect your trees from frost.
Don’t prune your fruit trees on particularly cold days, as the frost can cause major issues.
4. Lack of nutrients
Finally, if you haven’t added nutrients to your soil in a while, this could be the problem. You will need to check the PH of the soil and add the right type of fertilizer. To help you make the right decisions, here is our handy guide to garden fertilizers and how to use them.
The above are the most likely reasons your fruit tree is dying. It is not always easy to pinpoint the exact cause. However, through a process of elimination, you should be able to find and remedy the problem.
Can a tree come back to life?
While it may seem like a daunting task, it is possible for a tree to come back to life – even after it has been cut down. This is because trees are able to regrow their roots, trunk, and branches.
Of course, the process of a tree coming back to life is not an overnight one. It can take years – even decades – for a tree to fully regrow. But with the right conditions, it is possible for a tree to make a comeback.
Can a half dead tree be saved?
It is possible to save a half dead tree if the problem is identified early enough and corrective measures are taken. The most common cause of death in trees is drought, so if you think your tree may be half dead from drought, water it deeply and regularly. Also, check for other signs of stress such as insect damage or disease. If the tree is too far gone, however, it may need to be removed.
Why has my plum tree suddenly died?
There could be several reasons for your plum tree’s sudden death. It is important to first rule out common causes of tree death such as drought, disease, or pests. Once you have ruled out these possibilities, you can investigate other potential causes.
One possible reason for your plum tree’s sudden death is root rot. Root rot is a common problem in plum trees and can be caused by several different fungi. These fungi enter the tree through the roots and spread throughout the tree, eventually causing the tree to die. If you suspect that root rot is the cause of your plum tree’s death, you should check the roots for signs of decay.
Another possible reason for your plum tree’s sudden death is frost damage. Plum trees are particularly susceptible to frost damage during the blooming period. If the temperatures drop suddenly and stay below freezing for extended periods of time, the flowers and buds on the tree can be damaged or killed. This damage can cause the tree to die.
Do plum trees lose their leaves in fall?
Most plum trees are deciduous, meaning that they lose their leaves in the fall. However, there are a few plum tree varieties that are evergreen and keep their leaves year-round. So, if you’re not sure which type of plum tree you have, it’s best to consult with a local nursery or gardening expert to find out for sure.