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Cherry Leaves-Folded not Curled
issue with new cherry tree
1 Posts
May 13, 2023 - 6:38 pm


 First post and it's regarding a 4 in 1 cherry tree. I purchased two, 5-6 year old cherry trees online (a Bing and a 4 in 1) and planted them in a sunny area about 20 feet apart after amending the soil roughly 6 weeks ago. The Bing arrived with a few leaves just starting to emerge and is now fully leaved and looks to be doing great. The 4n1 had no leaves but plenty of buds and shortly after planting, leaves sprouted. The leaves on it look healthy and are not drooping but are closed lengthwise anywhere from half to more than 2/3rds of the way shut along the center rib and I can't figure out after searching online what that could be. Also the leaves are small and growth seems to sort of have stopped. Tons of info on cherry leaves curling due to pests but nothing on them simply closing part way. This tree as compared to the other one didn't arrive with much in the way of roots. The main root was cut and there were hardly any other roots left but the leaves up until a few days ago were fine. The only thing I did before this issue is spread some box store compost around both trees to use as some interim mulch which was followed by rain.

Anybody have any ideas as to what this is or if it's even a problem?

Thanks for reading.


Vancouver SW Washington
793 Posts
May 13, 2023 - 10:35 pm

OSU has a good couple of bulletins out regarding the stressful period of time it is for cherry trees of 4 years age or less. Consider yourself in that same period of stress because of the way the seller short changed you. Which is the possibility the tree is crying for being chopped at so completely during rainy event with high disease outside, or if it were grown in a greenhouse and not threatened by disease yet then it knows feeder roots are missing and water supply is at a minimum. Both these scenarios are kind of covered in the background of the bulletins from OSU in my eyes when you know the external links to other studies regarding disease and sweet cherry stress. Sour cherry types are more forgiving and will take more of a short supply of the root mass than sweet cherry so the OSU one dedicates the bulletin to sweet cherry problems than problems with sour cherry. 

In the fall of 2021 while I was transplanting clonal cherry clones that were coming from mature sections of roots from the much bigger mother tree were also short of roots. Maybe it was the last part of 2022, but I watched the tallest one with the smallest root mass continue to struggle for one half of the next year or one and a half years before resuming to normality. This was wild pin cherry in interior Alaska though and still I tried to keep watering around it as a way to keep humidity up. Fortunately I had enough flexibility in the stem to bend it down into tall grasses to prevent sun damage too. This last summer it was well enough to grow normal looking leaves and it had a few cherries.

So after you read the warnings from OSU then you also might think of doing almost the same thing as I. So if you can't create shade, low wind, and humidity conserving methods then unfortunately you might be thinking of potting it up and laying it in tall grass for the summer if it doesn't rain too much there (where you live?). 

Most of the time I am local SW Washington. I have seen stress on trees and especially sweet cherry grafted with dwarfing rootstocks for the first several years of time when grown fully exposed. My 'blackgold' cherry on gisela-5 was in excellent shape from the nursery and taken care of in soils that were acceptable. I actually had to save it from dying by placing rain shelters over the branches for at least two years a few years ago. All the branches that rain got to died off, but it was worth the effort because of the branches that self pollinate do well for me to this day.

So I think it's easier for you to keep yours mobile for at least a year so it can be put under eaves for the winter season or two. You would need 20 gallon pots for a multi-grafted sweet cherry like yours to get enough root mass and enough soil so that watering in the absence of rain won't demand you doing this (in dormancy) too often.

If your local I can expend scions of other cultivars. If you have skills and knife experience you can just cut down to the ground and build a small and new fake greenhouse environment for a year and a half. But you can get 'blackgold' sweet cherry, and a high quality yellow sweet cherry. I still graft this time in the year and as long as bark slips it's okay.

Puyallup, Washington, USA
239 Posts
May 15, 2023 - 4:35 pm

An extension site I found said that folded leaves is an indication of root issues, watering too much or too little. I have always followed the rule that the growth above the ground should not exceed the growth below the ground. If your tree has very little amount of roots because it has been pruned too hard then you need to prune the branches above ground to match or give some relief. Maybe pinch off a few leaves if your 4 in 1 branches are too small to allow cutting back. Add temporary shade if you have lots of sun and heat to contend with. 

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