Troubleshooting a Weeping Cherry Tree With No Leaves

Weeping cherry trees are prized for their graceful, cascading branches laden with showy pink or white blooms in spring. But sometimes these ornamental favorites fail to leaf out, creating bare, lifeless-looking plants. If your weeping cherry is not producing leaves, don’t give up on it yet. With some detective work and corrective care, you can often get a leafless weeping cherry to recover.

Why Isn’t My Weeping Cherry Producing Leaves?

When a weeping cherry tree sits completely barren of foliage, there are a few key reasons to investigate:

  • Winter injury -Extended cold, rapid temperature swings, or late frosts can damage flower and leaf buds, preventing leaf emergence

  • Pest problems – Borer infestations, scale infections, and spider mites can all decimate buds and twigs. Look closely for signs of pests.

  • Root damage – Girdling roots, extreme drought, root rot diseases, and rodent feeding can impair the roots’ ability to support new growth

  • Pruning errors – Improper or overly zealous pruning can strip away the latent leaf buds the tree needs to leaf out.

  • Graft failure – With grafted weeping cherries, the weeping top portion may die while the rootstock below lives on.

  • General decline – Poor soils, drought stress, drainage issues, or advanced age may cause the tree to languish.

Pinpointing the cause is key to getting your cherry tree to re-leaf or knowing if replacement is required.

How to Get a Weeping Cherry to Produce Leaves Again

If your leafless cherry tree shows signs of life like smooth bark, green cambium, and perhaps some stems leafing out from the rootstock, there is hope you can spur it back into action.

Rule Out Pests and Diseases

Inspect trees closely for borers, scale, spider mite webs, and cankers, treating any found accordingly. Catching issues early is critical to save the tree.

Improve Growing Conditions

  • Examine roots for defects and improve drainage if needed.

  • Top dress with compost and mulch to nourish soil.

  • Deep water during dry periods so roots stay hydrated.

Prune Properly

  • Remove all dead wood to open up the canopy.

  • Selectively prune remaining stems to encourage vigorous new shoots.

  • Limit pruning to avoid stripping away leaf buds.

Protect Tender Growth

  • Wrap trunks of young or newly leafing trees to guard against sunscald.

  • Stake droopy branches to prevent breakage of fragile new stems.

Fertilize Lightly

  • Apply a balanced, organic fertilizer to support the extra energy needs of re-leafing.

Be Patient

  • It takes time for trees to generate new leaves, so allow at least 2-3 months before assuming failure.

With attentive care focused on strengthening resources, the tree should be able to rebound from adversity and restore its beautiful canopy of leaves.

Getting a Non-Leafing Weeping Cherry to Bloom Again

Weeping cherries are prized just as much for their showy spring flowers as for their leaves. If your leafless tree was also absent of blooms, take these steps to help flowering resume:

  • Avoid heavy pruning to preserve next year’s flower buds.

  • Provide supplemental water before and during bud swell.

  • Apply a high phosphorus fertilizer to promote blooming.

  • Spray with a liquid kelp product to encourage flowering.

  • Allow maximum sunlight reach the tree to energize buds.

  • Top dress around the tree with compost to add nutrients.

  • Control pests like aphids that can interfere with flowering.

  • Rule out diseases like bacterial canker that can inhibit blooming.

  • Be patient – the tree may take a year or two to bounce back and bloom.

With time and care, you can coax a refractory weeping cherry tree to flower and leaf out beautifully once again.

When to Consider Replacing a Weeping Cherry Tree

Despite your best efforts to nurse it back to health, sometimes a weeping cherry tree that refuses to leaf out or bloom is past saving. Consider removal and replacement if:

  • The main trunk or multiple large branches are dead.

  • Significant trunk or branch dieback occurs year after year.

  • You uncover extensive borer damage or canker infections.

  • The bark at the graft union is damaged or split open.

  • White fungal growth is present on the bark.

  • The roots show signs of rot or the soil stays soggy.

  • Leaves fail to emerge for 2-3 seasons in a row.

  • Less than 25% of the normal bloom is produced after a few years.

While it’s sad to let go of a beloved tree, investing in a new, healthy replacement weeping cherry is sometimes the wisest solution.

Choosing a Replacement Weeping Cherry Tree

If starting over with a new weeping cherry is necessary, look for one exhibiting:

  • A sturdy, straight central trunk and evenly spaced branching.

  • Clean, smooth, blemish-free bark.

  • Plump, intact buds and no dead twigs.

  • Nice full shape with branching reaching almost to the ground.

  • A graft union free of cracks, oozing sap, and swelling.

  • Leaves present if purchased after spring bud break.

  • Signs of new white root growth from the root ball.

  • Good labeling details like variety, mature size, and hardiness range.

Select a site with excellent drainage and aim for planting in early spring. Stake the tree for a year until roots establish. Water weekly the first season and provide a layer of mulch. With proper planting and aftercare, your new weeping cherry will soon grow into a stunning focal point in the garden.

Enjoy the Graceful Beauty of Weeping Cherries

Lushly leafed and covered in cascading white or pink blooms in spring, weeping cherry trees are a prized specimen. But their beauty depends on staying vigilant for signs of stress and responding promptly when problems arise. With attention to their needs, a weeping cherry without leaves can often revive and resume its rightful place as one of the most elegant of ornamental trees.

Answer:Jonathan Foster, Special Project Assistant

I’m sorry to hear about your cherry tree, but you are far from the only one in that boat this season. The combination of generally mild winter and a late brutal cold snap is wreaking havoc on many fruit trees this year, and is a likely culprit for your tree’s woes. While I don’t have the exact dates, it was the cold snap in February that did it. I’ll include a couple of sources from slightly farther afield discussing the New England 2023 peach crop (the effects are similar on many fruit trees): Cornell Univ Blog

There are some other reasons why your cherry might be struggling–e. g. , the watering regimen, soil conditions, and (importantly with many ornamentals) pruning. So I will also include a few resources on general cherry care:

The good news is that if the tree is healthy otherwise, it will usually be able to recover from mild to moderate winter damage.

Why is my cherry tree not blossoming and has few leaves?

I have a Weeping Cherry tree in my yard that did not blossom and has very few leaves. Most of the branches are bare, looking dead. A neighbor about four houses away also has a smaller weeping cherry tree in the same situation. Could you please advise how we can help diagnose or treat these trees?.

Why My Weeping Cherry Tree Is Dying

Why does my weeping cherry tree Wilt?

When mature leaves wilt, curl, turn brown or yellow and fall from the tree during the spring and summer, the weeping cherry is not getting enough water. When immature leaves turn pale, new branch growth wilts and the leaves stay green but become brittle, the weeping cherry tree is getting too much water.

How do you know if a weeping cherry tree is getting too much water?

Recognize signs that your tree is getting too much or too little water. When mature leaves wilt, curl, turn brown or yellow and fall from the tree during the spring and summer, the weeping cherry is not getting enough water.

Are weeping cherry trees healthy?

We planted a weeping cherry tree, following the directions on the tag, last spring/summer. It was healthy when we planted it and remained so until fall, when the leaves naturally fell off. This season, it budded out line all the other plants and trees in our yard. THEN we had a slight frost. The little buds were killed.

Do weeping cherry trees ripen in the fall?

In the fall, the leaves turn vibrant shades of yellow and orange, adding to the tree’s ornamental value. While weeping cherry trees are primarily grown for their blossoms, they do produce small fruits after the flowers fade. The fruits are small, less than an inch in diameter, and turn black when ripe.

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