Can this apple tree be saved?
July 9, 2011 5:20 PM   Subscribe

A 5 foot tall tree I planted last year looks almost dead (leaves are dried up) but there are two foot tall healthy shoots coming out of the base of the tree (at ground level). Now what?

What is going to happen? Could the top die and a new tree form from the shoots? Should I be doing something? This happened even though we had a tremendous amount of rain. I am watering and fertilizing it like normal but I am stressed out wondering about its fate.

It is an apple tree in a wide open field.
posted by cda to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Was it a container-grown tree? That is, was it in a plastic pot when it was planted? Or, was it ball-and-burlap?
Most apples sold are cultivars that are grafted onto common apple stock. You should be able to see if the sprouts are coming below the graft union, which will be a swollen area at the lower trunk; you may see a transition in the bark texture at that point as well. It could be that there was a graft rejection, but more likely is that the tree was planted incorrectly. It could be too deep, or it could be that the soil in the root ball was a different texture than the soil it was planted in (which causes drainage issues and could be flooding the root ball or not allowing roots to grow out of the root ball), or that it had circling roots from being grown in a container, or any combination of those factors.
posted by Red Loop at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2011

If you get new shoots growing out of the root stock they won't yield the kind of apples you want; they may not even yield any apples at all.
posted by alms at 5:35 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ack! Thank you Red Loop! It was in a pot and I didn't think I managed the circling roots properly - I was in a hurry. I could have broken them up more. I didn't think it was going to be that important. The soil is completely different than the soil it came in. Very sandy.

alms - that's what I was afraid of. I think I really screwed this up.
posted by cda at 5:37 PM on July 9, 2011

If you plant again, look here to learn how to do it correctly.
posted by Red Loop at 5:47 PM on July 9, 2011

If it's got any green on it anywhere, it can probably at least feed itself for the short term.

If you do try to re-plant, do so in a hole that is three times as wide as it is deep. You may also need to knock away some dirt along the top to make sure the root flare (the place where the trunk widens) is exposed. Nurseries often just dump soil on top of potted trees, which ends up covering up the flair. Your planted tree will look a little high off the ground, but it will settle as it grows in.

Don't amend the soil you're planting in. That will make your tree never want to grow beyond the hole you dug. Use the same stuff you dug out.

If you can ensure that the dead stuff is indeed dead, trim back the affected branches. No more than 1/3rd. That'll give the tree a chance to start over.
posted by Gilbert at 6:38 PM on July 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you Gilbert.
posted by cda at 7:51 PM on July 9, 2011

Aims is right; what you've got is an apple variety grafted onto the rootstock of a different variety.

No good (apples) will come of this.

Get a new tree.
posted by jamjam at 8:40 AM on July 10, 2011

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