Skip to main content

Peach and Cherry Trees: Problems and Solutions

Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.

If you want to have a healthy peach tree, select a disease-resistant rootstock  suitable for your growing zone. Every climate has its challenges and solutions, so do your research before you plant.

If you want to have a healthy peach tree, select a disease-resistant rootstock suitable for your growing zone. Every climate has its challenges and solutions, so do your research before you plant.

Delicous Fruit Doesn't Always Come Easy

When it comes to fruit, peaches and cherries are two of my very favorites. I appreciate them even more now that I know what growers often have to go through to make these delicious fruits available. As you will read here, growing fruit comes with its own set of challenges and setbacks. Growers who have orchards have usually learned (often the hard way) to overcomes the problems, but backyard gardeners need help as well. Hopefully, you can find some answers here to the problems you may be facing with your peach or cherry trees.

Peach Trees

Peach trees should always be planted during their period of dormance (late winter or very early spring). I recommend that you always start with a disease-resistant rootstock that is suitable for your growing area. The biggest problem in growing a peach tree from a seed is that you won't have peaches for several years. These are some of the hurdles you may have to jump over to achieve your goal of edible, delicious peaches.

Peach Leaf Curl

Peach leaf curl will affect the fruit, blossoms, leaves andshoots of peaches. It remains one of the most common problems for a backyard gardener, and can be recognized by the discoloration and distortion of leaves. It is caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans, which also infects almond and nectarine trees. There is no effective fungicide treatment once the peach tree leaves are infected so before or during bud swell is the ideal time to treat peach leaf curl, using copper sulfate spray.

Peach trees are weakened by peach leaf curl due to the leaves falling off during early growth, which reduces the amount of energy the tree absorbs from the sun. A weakened tree results in reduced growth and smaller than normal fruit. Heavily thinning your peach tree will reduce stress on the tree, although trees that are heavily infected with the fungus should receive an increased ration of nitrogen fertilizer. The nitrogen should help the tree regain lost leaves.

Peach Tree Pests

Peach trees are favorite breeding grounds for many pests, including the green June beetle, Oriental fruit moth, peachtree borer, plum curculio, shothole borer, white peach scale, catfacing insects, and the Japanese beetle. To read in-depth information on each of the aforementioned pests written by professional gardening experts, simply click on the name.

Peach Tree Diseases

Brown rot is an all-too-common disease plaguing backyard gardeners, as it also affects almost all fruit-bearing trees, including peach, cherry, plum, nectarine, apple, apricot and pear trees. The disease begins at bloom, causing the infected flowers to wilt and quickly turn brown. It starts with a small, innocuous-looking, round, brown spot, which will eventually expand and cause the entire fruit to rot, shrivel and form “mummies”. Brown rot is able to survive the winter months on the mummies that remain on the tree or fall on the ground, and on twig cankers.

To ward off the disease before it begins, there are several fungicides labeled for management of brown rot, and all must be applied before brown rot is discovered.

The best solution after the fact is to always gather and remove diseased fruit as soon as it appears on the tree. Dispose of any affected fruit on the ground. The dried fruit mummies should be removed from the tree in the fall. When you prune your tree in the winter, remove all parts of the tree that are infected and create more space between branches by pruning. This can help reduce inoculum by increasing the amount of airflow and sunlight.

Peach Scab

Almost all varieties of peaches are susceptible to peach scab, a fungus that causes scabbing, lesions, and defoliating on fruit, leaves and twigs. Peach quality suffers significantly (poor quality and loss of fruits due to rotting). When no fungicides have been used, the more severe cases of peach scab are found during the first year the trees bear fruit, since twig lesions develop during the first two growing seasons. Peach scab disease is more prevalent in wet and warm areas (fungi is dispersed by wind and rain).

Remove and destroy infected twigs in the early spring before growth starts. Also, remove any unwanted fruit on the ground (peel the fruit scab away and the remaining fruit is perfectly safe to eat). Make sure all the branches of your tree receive plenty of airflow and sunshine by pruning each year. Severe infections are found more often when trees are planted in shady areas. Keep that air circulating through your trees!

Peach Tree Diseases

Peach Leaf Curl

Peach Leaf Curl

Peach Scab

Peach Scab

Peach Perfection

If your peaches look like these, be happy!

If your peaches look like these, be happy!

Scroll to Continue

A Magnificent Cherry Tree

fruit-trees-problems-and-solutions

Cherry Trees

Cherry shot hole disease can make the leaves of your cherry tree look as if they were shot several times with a BB gun (although your first inclination might be to blame some common pests). It all starts with some tiny water spots that often turn red, brown or purple. The disease is caused by the bacterium Xanthomonas arboricola pv. pruni (XAP) and is one of the most common diseases of some edible varieties of cherry trees, along with ornamental flowering cherry trees. You might find this disease more prevalent in warm, wet, humid areas.

The disease-infected tissue will dry up and fall out of the center of the leaf spot, leaving behind a small hole. The bad news is that your tree might not be as beautiful as you would like but the good news is that cherry shot hole disease won't kill your tree.

If you see the holes in your leaves, begin cleaning them up and removing them to decrease the severity for the next growing season. The problem may not be eliminated completely, but removing the leaves will certainly be beneficial. If you are planning to plant another cherry tree, don't plant it next to a diseased tree, and avoid overhead irrigation to reduce the chance of transmitting the disease from one tree to another.

Cherry leaf spot may start out looking a lot like cherry shot hole disease but it is caused by a different fungus called Blumeriella jaapii that begins to grow when the weather turns warm, usually in early spring. As it grows, the fungus begins to produce spores that are released into the air. Those spores land on leaves and spots begin to appear.

Turn to the Experts for Advice

When you start trying to find information on the World Wide Web regarding plants, make sure you get your information from reliable sources. Master Gardeners, such as myself, are typically trained by the extension office of universities all across the United States and Canada. The people who train us are experts and their information is readily available at all times. I have offered some links with the photos below to some of the sources I use and trust.

Brown rot on cherry trees is explained in detail by the experts at the University of New Mexico.  Here's the link:  https://extension.umn.edu/plant-diseases/brown-rot-stone-fruit

Brown rot on cherry trees is explained in detail by the experts at the University of New Mexico. Here's the link: https://extension.umn.edu/plant-diseases/brown-rot-stone-fruit

Cherry Shot Hole Disease

Cherry Shot Hole Disease

Cherry Leaf Spot

Cherry Leaf Spot

Read about bacterial canker on cherry trees here:  https://extension.psu.edu/cherry-disease-bacterial-canker

Read about bacterial canker on cherry trees here: https://extension.psu.edu/cherry-disease-bacterial-canker

Read what the experts at Michigan State University have to say about necrotic ringspots on cherry trees here:  https://www.canr.msu.edu/ipm/diseases/prunus_necrotic_ringspot

Read what the experts at Michigan State University have to say about necrotic ringspots on cherry trees here: https://www.canr.msu.edu/ipm/diseases/prunus_necrotic_ringspot

The experts at the University of Wisconsin explain all about silver leaf disease here:  https://pddc.wisc.edu/2019/03/05/silver-leaf/

The experts at the University of Wisconsin explain all about silver leaf disease here: https://pddc.wisc.edu/2019/03/05/silver-leaf/

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Mike and Dorothy McKenney

Related Articles