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How to Do a Scratch Test on Trees & Plants

by Stark Bro's on 04/29/2014
Scratch Test Tree (Before)

When spring finally arrives, plants and trees start to wake up, and the gardening world gets exciting! It is also the time of year to evaluate what survived the winter. One common misconception this time of year is that all trees and plants wake at the same time. When we compare dormant plants and trees to things that are already waking in our gardens, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

Today, we’re going to equip you with one of the most handy tools that you can use to determine what’s still living: The Scratch Test.

1. Scratch Test: Fruit Trees

Tree Layers (Including Cambium)The most telltale way to determine if your young dormant trees are still alive is by checking the cambium layer under the bark. The task is simple!

What you need:

  • Your thumbnail or a smooth knife

How to do a scratch test:

  1. With your thumbnail or knife, lightly scratch a small spot into the bark of the tree’s trunk (in a location about halfway up the tree).
  2. Look for wet tissue beneath the bark layer that is scratched back. It should have a greenish hue — this is living tissue.

If you find that the cambium layer beneath the bark has become dry, brittle, and brown, then it indicates that the tree has failed to live.

At Left: living tree; at Right: dead tree [click images to view larger]:

Scratch Test Tree (After) Green Wood  Scratch Test Tree (After) Dead Wood

Sometimes, after performing a scratch test, you may discover the tree’s trunk shows no signs of life even though new growth still sprouts from the roots. This happens in grafted trees if the top-portion (the grafted variety) dies while the rootstock goes on living. If this happens, then it is best to replace the tree. Letting just the rootstock grow will result in a tree that lacks the qualities of the grafted variety you originally chose to plant. Rootstocks are used for characteristics like dwarfing and hardiness, and are often not ideal candidates for fruit-bearing trees.

Things to avoid when performing a scratch test:

  • Do not cut a large wound into the tree to determine whether or not it is living. A small spot will suffice.
    • Large wounds cut into your tree will require more effort to heal over.
  • Do not perform a scratch test on a branch/limb of the tree.
    • Testing the trunk is necessary. Limbs can break/die without determining the status of the rest of the tree.

2. Scratch Test: Berry Plants & Vines

For berry plants and vines, you can still attempt a scratch test to identify the living tissue. Simply follow the steps above for a scratch test on trees, and adjust to accommodate the size of the berry plants’ canes or vines. Pick a spot on the young cane/vine that is a few inches above the soil level to scratch.

Scratch Test Berry Plant (Before)  Scratch Test Berry Plant (After) Green Wood

Many berry plants send new growth up from their roots, so a dead cane may not determine a dead plant; however, a living cane will determine a living plant. With that in mind and, since some plants may feature thorns, you may prefer pruning in order to look for living tissue in your berry plants and fruiting vines.

3. Prune Back: Berry Plants & Vines

What you need:

  • A pair of sharp and clean pruning shears

How to prune to check for living tissue:

  1. With your pruners, cut from the tips of the canes, working your way back toward the ground.
  2. Cut the canes back little by little and check for signs of life after each cut.
  3. Stop cutting back once you reach green, living tissue.

Scratch Test Berry Plant Pruning (Green Wood)You are still looking for greenish, wet, living wood, but it may be necessary to cut dry dead tips back to find it. Cutting this dead wood away also helps the plants to sustain healthy growth during the growing season.

If your berry plant exhibits no living tissue in the canes above the ground, and you are also not seeing any new growth sprout from the root system well into the growing season, then your berry plant is likely no longer living. Replacing the berry plant is recommended in this case. It would also be a good time to assess water drainage, soil nutrients, and soil pH in that location if the cause of death is unknown.

Now that you know how to check to see if your plants and trees are living, it’s also important to know that, if they are still dormant, they simply need more time to break dormancy — especially if this is their first growing season in your yard! Each year, the seasons and the weather are slightly different, but living plants and trees will always wake up when they’re ready.

Remember: dormant berry plants and fruit trees may take anywhere from 4-6 weeks before showing signs of growth after planting.

61 Comments

  1. JAMES DAVIS permalink

    WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOUR CHERRY TREE HAS LEAF CURL AND BLACK SPOTS ON IT. SMALL HOLES IN LEAF AS WELL. TWO OF MY CHERRY TREES HAVE THIS BUT ONE CHERRY AND PEACH AND PLUM HAVE NO HARM TO THEM. WHAT DO I DO? THE TREES ARE 4 YRS OR MORE OLDER.

    • Some cherry trees can have different fungal issues if you are in an area that is humid and/or receives regular precipitation, especially during the growing season. If you are not regularly spraying your trees with a fungicide, I would recommend trying that.

      You can use a multi-purpose fungicide, like Fung-onil™, to control existing fungal issues on your trees.

      If you’re concerned with organic gardening, there are fungicide options that are certified for organic gardening as well, like Serenade® Garden Disease Control.

      Another thing to consider is using soil additives like Actino-Iron® Biological Fungicide or Actinovate® Fungicide to keep down soil fungi and prevent root diseases.

  2. Ken Way permalink

    My pawpaw trees I planted last year are too small and fine to risk a scratch test. Since my one survivor from an attempted planting 10+ years ago has always been a very slow budding and slow growing tree (still under 4 feet tall), I am waiting 2 more weeks before I decide whether they survived the very cold winter.

  3. Mike Obea permalink

    What about checking viability of nut trees? I assume it’s same as fruit.

    • That’s right, it would be the same for just about any young vascular plant/tree. :)

  4. Steve Ramsey permalink

    My blackberry canes started to leaf out this spring, then a late light frost nipped those leaves in the bud, so to speak. I thought at the time that new leaf buds would form in due time, but now I’m not so sure–scratching the canes, they really don’t look alive. Could one late relatively light frost have done all that? Is my best bet simply to start cutting back the canes (as per the blog), till I find something green?

    • While late light frost may have nipped the leaves, it wouldn’t be enough on its own to have killed the plants. The canes may need more time this spring to put out new leaves, but, if you try cutting back the canes from the tips and find no signs of life, and still no signs of new shoots coming from the roots, then you’ll have a good idea that the plants didn’t survive. I’m hoping that’s not the case!

  5. John Zbesko permalink

    I fear I may have lost my strawberries. They are planted in two half oak barrels on a back deck. Winter was bad in the Chicago area. No green leaves are evident in the barrels, even though I notice green strawberry leaves in a nearby community garden. Any quick tests for viability?

    • In the case of strawberries, your best bet would be to go in and manually remove what is dead (it doesn’t benefit anything to leave it there anyway), so you can find what’s living if anything survived.

      The dead plants will be brown and brittle, and even the roots tend to come out of the soil easily. The plants that seem firmly rooted, and plants that have some green/life to them, should be trimmed back. Hopefully you’ll find that not everything was lost to old man winter.

      I have my strawberries planted in an old half-barrel as well, and I had a lot of dieback due to the winter. If I hadn’t placed straw over them for protection this past winter, I’m sure I would have lost more than I did. When I uncovered them this spring, I took my pruners out and clipped out all of the dead stuff, and ended up finding living plants in the process!

      • John Zbesko permalink

        I did remove dead leaves and runners and have examined the crowns. I can’t tell if they are alive, even if they are supple. They’re not green. Never occurred to me last fall that I should have mulched the barrel.

        • Maybe try removing one of the crowns and cut into it, sort of like a cross-section — the idea is to see what’s under the surface to determine what is living. Granted, you don’t want to do this to all of the crowns, but you’ll get an idea of what’s going on with your plants.

  6. diane heath permalink

    My Stella cherry tree (mid to small size) is not flowering (hardly)and of course not giving me cherries. What type of food would boost production? Do I need to do something else?

    • To put it simply, a fruit tree must be mature and established before it will bloom or bear fruit. In most cases, when a fruit tree isn’t blooming, it is because it is still growing and getting its roots established, so it needs more time before it will bloom and eventually fruit.

      Sweet cherry trees tend to have a longer period of time before you see fruit than other fruit trees. It usually takes at least 4 years before you start seeing the first blossoms or fruit set.

      If your cherry tree has been growing with you for many years (its trunk diameter would be several inches at this point), and you’re STILL not seeing any fruit, then the problem may be that the tree is receiving too much nitrogen — either from the soil or from fertilizer. Nitrogen fertilizers encourage green, leafy growth, but not blossoms or fruit. Fertilizers with a higher phosphorous content tend to encourage blooming. However, if your tree is simply too young/not mature enough to fruit, fertilizer won’t really be able to fix that — but time will. ;)

      You can read about other reasons why a tree may not bloom or bear fruit in our article here: Fruit Tree Blooming and Bearing Problems — And How to Solve Them!

      • diane heath permalink

        thank you. Is the mulch i have around the tree giving it too much nitrogen?

        • Mulch is probably not the culprit, since most mulches aren’t large sources of nitrogen and they take time to slowly break down into the soil.

          If you’re not using a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, I’d say that the first reason to consider why your cherry tree isn’t blooming is because it isn’t mature enough. :)

  7. Hugh A.Kalns permalink

    We live in Virginia and this winter was very cold. We think we have lost our two Turkey Figs to the cold. They are large trees and have producted well over the years/Do we do the same asa scraping the bark to find out if it’s alive?

    • Yes, you should be able to determine if there is life in your Brown Turkey Fig trees by the scratch test. If you find that there is still life in the trunk, even if the top has died back, you can prune back to where the life is, very similar to how the cane berries are treated (as mentioned in the above article). New growth will be encouraged to sprout from the living tissue below your pruning cut.

      The biggest difference is that fig trees tend to be on their own root rather than grafted onto a different rootstock, so if you see growth coming from the roots this spring, you can let it grow. It will still be true to the variety!

      • Dale Jessen permalink

        I have the same problem in Charlottesville va. Also have them check for small worms boring into the larger stems. These can work their way up the tree in a few days.
        What to do about these?

  8. LaDonna permalink

    I have a Balaton cherry tree that was planted Fall 2012. I did the scratch test and it is most definitely green. However, it has no leaves or any signs of growth. All the other cherry trees have already bloomed and everything. Should I just replace it?

    • I’m not sure you should replace a living tree just because it’s not keeping up with the rest of the trees around. If your tree was only planted in fall of 2012, it is likely still too young to bloom, and the leaves tend to come during/after the blooming period of the growing season. I’d recommend waiting until there is no life in the tree before you give up on the one you have! Yours may simply need more time.

      I have a persimmon tree that I thought was dead one year even though the scratch test showed me it was alive. I eventually stopped expecting it to leaf out and I was even contemplating what I’d replace it with. Then, almost over night, it had new leaves everywhere! It was kind of like “the watched pot never boils”. :)

  9. gopal permalink

    I have a grafted cherry tree, 3 different grafts on it, 1 of the 3 grafts does not have leaves and is probable dead. how do I remove that part without damaging the other 2 grafts/tree?

    • If you can tell which graft it is that has died, you can just prune to remove the dead limb without providing damage to the other two grafts or the tree. If your concern is that they’re too close together or something that poses a challenge, you may need to use a small, sharp pruning tool to get the job done in a small space. I hope this helps!

  10. Marcus permalink

    Sarah,
    In NW lower MI, I went out several weeks ago to prune out my hobby orchard. I noticed that my Starking plum trees (about 4 yrs old,now) are becoming heavily covered with lichens. Most other trees are not. I have read that lichens are not a detriment to a tree, but it just doesn’t look ‘natural’ to me.

    What say you, and what recos would you have?

    • Lichens may seem like something that needs to be removed, but they’re really harmless. In fact, they tend to form in environments that receive good moisture and sunlight (to help the symbiotic nature of the fungus and algae that create lichens), and you often find them in forests and wooded areas — that sounds pretty natural to me! :)

      However, if you don’t like the lichens on your trees, you can remove the branches they have developed on, but there aren’t really sprays that will control lichen development.

      If lichens are on the trunks of the trees, I wouldn’t recommend trying to remove those. Lichens are usually firmly attached to the sites they are found on, but they tend not to like shaded areas, so as the plum trees mature and develop a nice canopy you may see the lichens naturally decline.

      • Marcus permalink

        Sarah,
        Thanks. You confirmed what others have told me around here. We all live on fully or partially wooded acreage, and most of the trees out in the ‘woods’ have lichens.
        ‘Doubting Thomas’ here just needed an expert’s opinion! I will leave them be! Hopefully will get some fruit this year!

        • Marcus permalink

          Sarah,
          I suppose I misspoke when I said ‘unnatural’ when describing the lichen coverage on my 4-yr old ‘Starking Delicious Pear Standard’. I guess I meant to say that ‘something doesn’t look right’! While my neighboring fruit trees (and I have some of them all) are now bursting with new foliage, and apples are days away from flower set, alas the plum we were discussing is apparently actually dead. I’m really distraught, because it grew over a foot last season, with fantastic leader and limbs, to about 6ft tall by 3 1/2 foot dia canopy! I was hoping to allow for fruit set this year. Why one tree amongst, lets see, 42 differing varieties? The 2 plums next to it, a Stark ‘Redheart’ plum, and a Stark ‘Earliblue Prune-Plum’ standard are growing like gangbusters?

          • Aw I’m sorry to hear about your plum tree Marcus :( — it’s difficult to say what might have caused that one tree to fail while the rest of them are doing so well. It could be that something affected its roots (critters or cold temperatures) or maybe the recent weather was just unfavorable to that particular tree. It sounds to me like it was a fluke (probably weather-related), since the rest of your trees sound like they’re growing well for you. Maybe give the same variety another try if you were really interested in that particular fruit, or see this as an opportunity to try something else!

  11. Mark Reid permalink

    I planted two plums this spring. I planted them after they had leafed out. A majority of there leaves wilted, turned brown and fell off. They still have some green leaves though. Could this be a shock or are they dying?

    • What you saw happen to your leafed-out plum trees after planting was likely caused by shock. It can happen with almost any plant/tree that is leafed out and awake at planting time. You will likely see the stressed leaves drop, which is fine, and this makes room for the new leaves your tree will develop during the growing season. :)

  12. Mark Reid permalink

    I have a muscadine vine that is about 3 years old. It has grown very slow form the start. I noticed all the leaves have holes all in them. I don’t see any bugs on it and I put dolistic lime around it and a little 13 13 13. What could be causing this?

    • Assuming that the holes are just holes and not a fungal issue, slugs and snails could be the culprit. I have that same thing going on in my garden with my new muscadine vine. If you have some egg shells leftover from meals throughout the week, rinse and break them up and sprinkle them along the ground around your vines (and your trellis if your muscadines are growing on one) to work as a snail and slug deterrent.

      In case it is a fungal issue, which many grape vines can be sensitive to, you might want to consider using a fungicide like copper-based bordeaux, which is a natural fungicide so you can use it in organic gardening.

  13. Peter permalink

    Hi,
    not sure if my dwarf nectarine tree that i had planted in a container last year has survived. About a month ago the tree blooms with a lot of flowers. All the flowers have now fallen off, and i still do not see any leaves growing. I also have a peach tree planted in a container near it and it it also had flowers and is growing new leaves. Any advise? Thank you.

    • Hi Peter :) My 2 peach trees growing in containers have presented me with the same issue this spring. I was excited because they bloomed when most other peach trees around here had their fruit buds damaged by harsh winter temperatures. Mine bloomed beautifully and then last week they had small unhealthy leaves that just dropped off when the wind blew. Even though my apple trees are still looking great with the same care, I discovered my peach trees are experiencing a nutrient deficiency.

      It’s especially easy for a fruit tree growing in a container to have nutrient deficiency because, depending on the soil/medium the trees are growing in, they may be left “hungry” for vitamins and minerals they’d normally spread their roots for in the ground.

      I would recommend fertilizing with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer to get your nectarine tree the nutrients it’s likely lacking. Blooming and fruit production requires a lot of energy from fruit trees, and they get their energy from the sun as well as the nutrients in the soil. Even though your peach trees may be looking fine, they may need an extra boost while they’re producing fruit this spring. I hope this helps!

      • Peter permalink

        seems the tree has died. The branches are shriveling up , and the bud are brittle, or mush. I just got this tree last year. Everything else is leafing out.

  14. Ewa permalink

    This Jan. I’ve planted Persian white mulberry bare root tree.
    It’s May and no sign of swelling buds :((.
    The bark on the graft has gotten green hue and few leaves appeared below graft. Are the mulberry trees slow to start growing? Does it depend on temperature ? I live in San Diego and we already had few hot spells 100*F.
    Any chance of the tree to wake up?

    • Hi Ewa! Have you tried the scratch test described in this article to see if the top portion of your mulberry tree is still living? If you’re seeing growth from below the graft, you can assume that there is life in at least some of the tree. Unfortunately, if the tree is grafted, the rootstock is likely not the same variety as the persian white mulberry. I’m hoping the top portion of your tree is still living, so check its trunk, about halfway up the tree, for green tissue beneath the bark. January to May is more than enough time for a tree to break dormancy.

      If you find that there is life in the trunk above the graft, you should allow the tree time to see how it performs. Keep it watered, especially during the heat spells if it isn’t raining. If, after a few weeks, it still isn’t leafing out, you may want to check for life again, or consider getting a new tree and planting again once it has cooled off there.

  15. Gary Dreher permalink

    While I don’t have a comment or question about the scratch test, I do have a question about my dwarf peach trees, one Reliance and one Intrepid, which are about 7 to 8 years old now. There are no signs of blossoms on either tree, but leaves are growing well. Should I see blossoms by now? It seems that in previous years by early May the trees were full of flowers.

    • Hi Gary! It depends on where you are located, but most peach trees have finished blooming by this point. This is probably the same for peach trees in your area, especially if you have typically seen peach tree blossoms by this time in previous years.

      After this past relentless winter, with harsh low temperatures, many peach trees have had their sensitive fruit buds damaged. Even a cold-hardy variety’s unopened fruit buds are at risk of damage. We’re experiencing this in our orchards here in Northeastern Missouri. The trees survived, but they didn’t bloom and therefore didn’t set a fruit crop. Our neighbors’ peach trees to the south seem to have been spared, as they bloomed and are now in the early stages of fruitset.

      In your case, your peach trees may take this growing season to store energy and nutrients, rather than bear a fruit crop, in preparation for next year — and hopefully the weather is in favor of that! :)

      • Gary Dreher permalink

        Yes, I forgot to say that I’m in Champaign, IL, a little north of your nursery and further east. So I expect no peaches this year, but it looks like we’ll enjoy pears from our five-year-old tree this year for the first time.

  16. Tracy permalink

    Hello, We purchase several trees three years ago. Over this last winter 4 of our trees (barlett pear, GrandGala apple, Fugi Apple, and Granny Smith Apple) all had their trunks attacked and scraped off by a rabbit. All four of the trees were scrapped completely around the based (therefore not leaving a channel for nutrients to go from the roots to the branches) and we help out little hope that the trees would live. However, we recently noticed new growth under the scratched area. On the apple trees the leaves are consistent with Apple leaves but the pear leaves do not look like pear leaves. I would assume that this was the grafted situation mentioned in the article but no where on your site does it say that the trees were grafted and we checked the original tags and it does not say they were grafted. Does you company by standard practice graft all of your trees? Or is this new growth possibly the trees coming back?
    Thanks,
    Tracy

    • We do graft our apple and pear trees, but, like the article says, the rootstocks are often not ideal candidates for growth and fruit production. Our pear trees may be grafted on european pear rootstock, asian pear rootstock, and sometimes even quince rootstock, so that may explain why the leaves look a bit different on the growth coming from the root on your pear trees. :)

  17. Emily permalink

    I have a question about a 3 year old methley plum. I scratch tested it and it’s alive, but it doesn’t have one leaf bud or leaf yet and I’m in the Mid-Atlantic. It’s branches are all red, but no growth. All of our other same year trees are doing great with lots of leaves. We’re not sure if we should throw in the towel and get another tree (supreme size to play catch up quicker) or give it more time. Your help is appreciated.

    • I’ll always recommend giving a tree more time, especially after an unusually harsh season (like this past winter). Since you’ve already tried the scratch test, you could try pruning some of the limb tips back. This will be to see what’s going on with the tree now that you know it is still living, because it may be suffering from unseen winter injury.

      When you prune a limb back, look at the center of the limb that remains attached to the tree — the “heartwood” as seen in the illustration in the article. If this wood is dark at the center, you’ll know it has been damaged, most likely by cold temperatures. In this case, prune the damaged limbs back to healthier wood (it will be a lighter brown) and stop pruning as soon as the damaged wood is no longer visible. This should also encourage your tree to force growth from the buds below your pruning cut.

      If you find no damage in the limbs, then it should be a good sign. It may just need more time (and maybe a little fertilizer?) :)

  18. Dale Jessen permalink

    I live in va and have the same problem, but mine are leafing out in the first 6 in. Of the tree at the bottom. Also, I have small boring worms in the large. Stems of the tree. They leave small bits of sawdust on the bark. Is there anything I can do about it except cut off the effected branches. This with leave a 6 in stump with leaves.
    Dale jessen

    • Have you sprayed your trees with a pesticide to try to control the borer problem? I think pruning back the limbs just behind the borer damage would be a good start, but the issue might return if the borers aren’t controlled. Also, unless the borers have taken over the top of your tree, you might not need to cut it back so extremely. General pruning stimulates growth, so if your trees are simply lacking vigor, this may be enough to help.

      I’m not sure how serious the borer issue is, but if for any reason you find that the top portion of your tree has no life in it, then cutting back to where the life is would be a good move. There is no point in letting dead wood remain. You could train the new growth (leaves near the bottom) to eventually become your new trunk, but in severe cases, replacing the tree might be a better option.

      • Dale jessen permalink

        No, I have not. What pesticide? I understand that these worms are in the soil. I need to treat the soil before a new tree goes in?
        Dale

        • We carry a Borer-Miner Killer concentrate that should help control borer and similar pest issues. Since the borer issue is present, it may be good to begin treatment even with new trees, before the borers can become a problem.

          This would also be a good opportunity for you to contact your local county cooperative extension to see what else is recommended for your area. There is usually more than one option to explore and your local university co-op is a great source of information in growing and caring for trees specifically in your area. You can find the contact information for yours here:
          http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

          I hope this helps!

  19. David King permalink

    I planted a cherry tree this spring about 4-5 weeks ago. Their has been no signs of life so I did the scratch test on it today. The trunk has no green and appeared dead but the branches have green on them and look ok. Does this meen the tree is dying from the bottom up or is their still hope? Thanks in advance.

    • It’s unusual for the trunk to be brown and dead while the branches are still living and doing well. If you happened to do the scratch test on your tree’s trunk above where the green branches are, you might try scratching the trunk in a location lower than where the branches emerge to see if there is life. If so, I’d recommend pruning back the part of the tree with no life to help the living wood to thrive. I’m hoping this is what you’re experiencing with your cherry tree!

      Worst case scenario, if the entire trunk is dead, the vascular system that keeps trees alive and healthy will have been disrupted. The green branches wouldn’t be a sign of hope in this case.

  20. David King permalink

    Thanks for your fast reply.
    The trunk from the ground up to about 5″ from the 1st branch has no green. From there up the main trunk and all branches, that I tested, appear to be green/normal. Is it possible the tree will grow green life down wards. Maybe the roots died and the tree is dying from the bottom up?

    • Even a dormant tree will show signs of life beneath the bark. The roots and trunk are extremely important to the vascular system (the life system) in a tree, so if the lower part of your trunk (from the roots up) is the part that shows no life, then I’m sorry to say that it’s likely the roots experienced some sort of injury — freezing temperatures perhaps — that is causing the tree to slowly die. :(

  21. Regina Harvey permalink

    I ordered apple trees from Miller’s nursery last year. pound apples and granny smiths, only 2 of them lived through the winter. Are you going to honor miller’s guarantee/warranty , there is no record of the order in this account?

    • Hi Regina. The best way to check on anything order-related is to contact our customer support team at 800.325.4180.

      We have been honoring Miller’s guarantees, as long as they are still valid and the trees were ordered online/over the phone/through the catalog. We are not affiliated with Miller’s retail location that closed back in October.

  22. Lynn permalink

    So my North Star Cherry died.
    Or did it? Or what happened?
    Something ruined the bark on the trunk. It did not grow or flower last year. It looked dead.
    The bark is split open showing the “core” inside. There is another long split on the opposite side. The little tree is only a few feet high and about 2″ diameter. (Maybe it was the sun, or the freeze or what?)

    I bought a different variety little tree to take its place and planned to cut it down this spring.

    The poor thing grew, flowered and is full of cherries this year! Now it has grown more than 5″ of new growth. What has happened? How can it be alive? I guess no one can predict its future.

    • Wow! I’m not sure what happened, but it sounds like your cherry tree likes to keep you on your toes. :) Let us know how the fruit turns out.

  23. Dan permalink

    I have a stellar pink dogwood in Virginia that has had tiny flower buds on it for over a month now but no blooms. It also has no leaves. The trunk is light greenish with scratch test, but the branches are soft but reddish not green when I do the scratch test. It also has reddish new growth shoots with tiny buds on the ends, but the buds just won’t bloom. I’m not sure how much longer to give it before I assume its a goner. I would expect leaves or blooms by June.

    • You mentioned the green cambium from the scratch test, so I take it as a good sign. Harsh winter and late frosts can inhibit (set back) growth, especially if there was any damage to the emerging buds. I know it’s already June and you would have expected to see something by now, but since the past winter and spring were unusually harsh on many plants and trees, it’s difficult to expect them to respond as normal. I wouldn’t hold out hope for it to bloom at this point, but I’d wait and see if it finally puts out leaves this growing season before you assume it’s a goner.

  24. Gail permalink

    Hello-
    Planted 10 bare root raspberry canes the first week of March. All but two have shown some sort of growth; most from the roots, and a couple have foliage from the canes. The two that have not shown any growth are definitely still green inside when I cut the cane down a bit, indicating to me that they are still alive. The canes are about 8″ high. I would appreciate your take on why no growth. Anything I can do to encourage growth like cutting the canes lower? Thanks!

    • Good instincts, Gail! Pruning will certainly help stimulate growth (especially from the roots) in your raspberry plants. This is why we recommend pruning the canes back to two inches above the soil at planting time.

      You can read more about planting bare-root raspberry plants here.

  25. roland mcginnes permalink

    really like your help tips. I have a santa rosa plum about 15 yrs. old and 15′h x 12’round, beautiful tree but just puts on a dozen fruit or less every year. every thing else in our small orchard does great. the gratitude grape i ordered from you this year is growing like crazy with nothing but watering so far….

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