Is plum tree beyond saving?

Discussion in 'Fruit and Nut Trees' started by Alesig, Jun 21, 2020.

  1. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    I planted in the spring of 2018 a Mount Royal plum tree. It was doing fine in 2019 but this spring it didn’t leaf out. I still can bend the branches without them breaking.

    There is new growth coming out on the trunk and I am wondering if these eventually would grow into new branches. Also I am wondering if I should leave all the new growth for now or remove some of it and if there is hope for the tree when and where should I cut if the top.
     

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  2. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    I see that the January minimum temperature at Edmonton International Airport was -42.3 Deg C, which is a bit below the Zone 3b minimum of -37.2; so, your tree may have suffered some winterkill. As soon as possible, I would select the longest new shoot and make a clean cut slanted down from just above that shoot. That will become a new central leader that you can train to branch out exactly where you want the branches. It would be a good idea to leave at least a couple of branches below the new leader, just in case problems develop. The tips of the lower branches should be pinched off to prevent competition with the new leader. It may also be useful to fasten a temporary pole to the remaining old trunk and then tie the new leader to this pole to align it closely with the old trunk.
     
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  3. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    Vitog, thank you for taking the time to give me the advice.

    The strongest shoot is on the bottom and they get smaller going up on the trunk. So to do this right, should I pick one that is the fourth shoot or so up on the trunk and cut the trunk off above this one? How far exactly (like in inches) above the shoot should I cut the trunk off with the rest of the shoots? Do I understand this right that I pinch off the tips of the shoots that are below the new leader? If there is a problem with the new leader would I still be able to use one of the pinched off shoots as a new leader? I know, I have a lot of questions but I want to make sure I understand and do it right.

    I live in the city and the Airport temperatures are always several degrees colder than where I live and the tree is in a sheltered spot. But who knows what caused it and it is what it is.

    Thanks again!
     
  4. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    It's not necessary to use the largest shoot for the new leader. You can select any healthy looking shoot as the leader and cut the trunk just above its attachment point. The cut should begin right at the top edge of the small collar around the shoot and cut downward at about 45 degrees. To make the cut as clean as possible, it's a good idea to first cut off most of the upper part of the tree about a foot above the final cut and then do some practice cuts to make sure that you can do the final one cleanly. Do not leave any stub above the new leader; that would prevent proper healing. The pinched off shoots will form side branches that could be used as a new leader, if that becomes necessary; but they should be kept small. I would completely remove the largest lower shoots as soon as the new leader shows significant growth.

    It occurs to me that wet snow and/or ice might put a significant load on the new leader, and there will be a weak spot at the cut. The pole that I mentioned above for alignment would also provide useful support if it is sturdy enough.
     
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  5. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    There has not been any mention of whether this tree is grafted. Is the answer to be found in the photos? Just wondering.
     
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  6. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    The practice cuts sound like a very smart idea as I never have done this before. Good thing I asked because I would have left at least an inch or two of the trunk above the new leader. I will put on the temporary pole to train and support the new leader.

    I am just curious and it’s probably a dumb question. Why can’t I just cut off the top and leave some of the shoots as my new branches rather than growing a new leader. Like having a tree with a shorter trunk?
     
  7. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    Yes, it's grafted. Would that make a difference?
     
  8. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Most fruit trees are grafted, @Junglekeeper has hit the nail on the head IMO.
    This occurs a lot with Japanese maples, with questions similar to that of @Alesig. My thought is that the lower growth is the rootstock and the Plum tree is dead.
     
  9. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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  10. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    You will see a slight swelling or what appears a slight deformity in the trunk, or a scar where the scion wood (plum) was inserted into the rootstock. The healing process always leaves a scar but can be quite difficult to see as the tree ages. If you think you have seen it, do post a photo so that it can be verified by people viewing.
     
  11. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    I don't see obvious evidence of a graft in the photos. There's some scoring on the bark a short distance above the soil line but it doesn't look like a graft line to me. You may want to have a closer look at the point just below the first branch, the one with the tag. Does the bark above and below that point have a different look?
     
  12. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    The first picture I took when it started to send the new shoots. In early spring I cut off some branches upwards from 2’ height as I was told by the garden center to do so once the tree had grown some more branches.

    The only place I can see some change is right above the ground, but what do I know. I took close up pictures from the trunk so hopefully you may be able to see where the grafting might have been done.
     

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  13. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Looking at the second photo there is a distinct difference in bark color a couple inches above soil line. That may be where a graft took place. If that is the case (or in the absence of a graft) you're good to go. I think @vitog and @Acerholic would be more of an authority in this matter.

    Also check the tree tag; maybe there's useful information there. You may also want to ask someone at the nursery on whether this is a grafted tree and for them to ask their supplier if need be.
     
  14. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    I talked previously with the local greenhouse I got it from with little help. The tag says that the tree comes from Bylands. I just tried to send them an e-mail but can't get through to them.
     
  15. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Alesig, did you dig some soil away from the base of the trunk just before you took the latest photos? If so, the change in colour could be due to damp soil sticking to the bark below the previous soil line. It appears that the trunk diameter is decreasing right at the new soil line. It might be useful to dig a little deeper to check if the graft union is a bit lower. If this tree is on a dwarfing rootstock, the upper part could be wider than the lower; and, if the graft union is below the soil line, the tree is planted too deep, unless you don't want a dwarf tree.

    If you want to train the tree to a vase shape instead of a central leader, you can do that by making the cut at the highest new shoot. You will still have to make the cut as I described, but you will then have to select which branches you want to keep and pinch back the rest. You will have to train the selected branches to grow away from the centre to produce wide joints, which are stronger than narrow ones. The tree will naturally try to re-establish a central leader; so, it will be more work to train it to the vase shape. I grow all of my fruit trees to a vase shape, but I keep the lowest branches fairly high to allow easy grass mowing under the branches.
     
  16. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Good morning @Alesig, OK looking at your photos, it would appear that your plum was probably bud grafted onto a strong rootstock, which tbh if done well is very hard to identify. I cannot see any evidence of other grafting in your photos.
    That said IMO the growth you are seeing is that of the rootstock and not of the plum you purchased. Now strong rootstock is related in some way otherwise the grafting would not take, but the caveat is that what grows from the rootstock will not produce fruit that is often edible or bountiful.
    You could wait and create a leader branch as already advised in other postings and see what you have, but if it were me and I was growing a particular maple that I wanted for instance, I could possibly use the lower rootstock to start again with a new graft when the shoots are the right size and strength.
    I totally agree with @vitog that this plum is planted too deep and I would also like to see what is going on where it narrows at the soil line, if I decided I wanted to keep it.
    But IMHO, I would take this tree down and replace it with a new healthy tree, planted higher in the ground. Soil up against the trunk will eventually cause rot and disease.
     
  17. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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  18. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    I appreciate the time all of you are taking to help me. Thank You!

    I removed some more soil, in total close to 2", and didn't know if I should go further down as I was starting to expose some thin roots. The stick indicated where the soil level was before. So, did I plant it to deep? I thought I did it as the instructions said, root ball even with ground level.

    I will try the vase shape. Would keeping four or five branches be the right amount or what is your recommendation?

    I am at a loss. If the graft is on the rootstock why would the trunk and any growth on it not be the same as the graft? A couple of the top shoots are right at the spot where I had trimmed off some branches. Why would the shoots now be different from the branches I removed?
     

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  19. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    That looks like a graft to me but I'm surprised by how it's so close to the soil.
     
  20. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Alesig, 4 or 5 main branches spaced evenly around the trunk is what I aim for when pruning to a vase shape.

    I agree with Junglekeeper that it looks like the graft is very low on the trunk, but the swelling above the union is not extreme. So, it might not be a dwarfing rootstock. Most plums are pretty small trees and don't need a dwarfing root stock to keep them small. There are lots of other reasons for grafting fruit trees. Whatever advantages the rootstock provides will eventually be lost if the graft union is below the soil line because new roots will develop above the union. However, there may be no serious effects.

    If we are correct that the graft union is at the bottom of the trunk, obviously all of the new shoots will be the same genetically as the upper part of the tree.
     
  21. Acerholic

    Acerholic Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    I agree with the comments from @vitog and @Junglekeeper, but what a low grafting union!!! The new shoots you have are now the plum.
    Now to consider removing the upper dead wood. Before doing so do the finger nail test on the branches that have no leaves, just to see if there is any green underneath. If not then it should be removed sooner rather than later. Rule of thumb is to remove any dead , diseased or dying wood.
     
  22. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    I wonder if that was the intent of the grower. Perhaps this is a vigorous rootstock, used in order to shorten the time required for the product to become ready for market.
     
  23. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    I cut the trunk today but left enough for a final cut. I tied several shoots outwards from the trunk to form the vase shape. I want to see what the shoots look like tomorrow as they are very fragile and easily broke off, and then I will take a picture to see if you think it's ok. The tag says the average size is 13' tall and 10' wide.

    The lower two branches had some green left and so did the trunk.
     
  24. Alesig

    Alesig New Member

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    I tied the shoots and I am thinking anything below the blue tape on the trunk I should remove for now. That would leave me with six shoots and in a few weeks I could remove one or two more. Some of the shoots are getting little side shoots and I assume I should pinch the side shoots off for now. If so, when would I stop doing this? Can I go ahead with the final cut or should I change anything from how the test cut is done?
     

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  25. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    To me the test cut looks good; just make sure that the top of the final cut is just above the highest side shoot. The lowest shoots can be cut off at any time and should be cut close to the trunk, not like the dead side branches above that will be removed. Pinching the little side shoots is not necessary unless they grow too long and start crossing other shoots.
     

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