Why is my plum tree dropping leaves? If this is a question and you need a solution, be advised that there are many reasons why your plum tree is losing leaves. First you need to try to identify the cause and then prepare a plan of attack to resolve the problem.
Control methods such as preventative tactics, cultural practices and chemical control can be used to combat the issue, sometimes singly and sometimes in conjunction.
Most problems of leaf drop on your plum trees are cultural and environmental in nature, so examine these first. Some of these may include:
Making the appropriate choice of tree to plant and purchasing healthy disease resistant varieties is the key to preventing and managing any future problems.
Instituting a practice of integrated pest management (IPM) is the best way to prevent or manage pest infestations. IPM consists of identifying the pest, whether insect or disease, and learning about its life cycle, foresee and avert problems by reducing tree stressors, and choosing the least toxic control method, which can be anything from hand picking bugs to horticultural oil and insecticidal soap applications.
Good sanitation practices are another preventative measure that can be taken. Cleaning up debris, weeds, and grass from around the base of the tree can thwart over wintering insects and fungi that may be the cause of the plum tree leaves falling off.
Listed below are the most common reasons for a plum losing leaves:
Nutrient deficiencies – Nutrient deficiencies such as a boron, iron, manganese, sulfur or nitrogen, may contribute to the plum tree leaves falling off. Stone fruit trees need nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
Consult a nursery or extension office for information on the correct chemical fertilizer and timing for application, or an organic fertilizer (such as composted manure and yard waste) can be used. Foliar application of seaweed extract, compost tea or fish emulsion are also great.
Improper watering practices – Watering properly is important to prevent leaf drop. Newly planted trees should be watered in 6-8 inches down in the soil about two to three times a week through the fall and keep organic mulch around the tree (6 inches away from the trunk) to aid in water retention.
Phototoxicity – Phototoxicity may also result in a plum tree losing leaves. Phototoxicity often happens when summer oil sprays, like neem oil or insecticidal soaps, are applied when the tree is under stress from dry conditions or when temps are over 80 F. (27 C.).
Diseases – Bacterial leaf spot or shot hole disease may also afflict your plum tree and cause leaf drop, sometimes severely. Wet weather makes both these diseases worse. A winter application of a copper fungicide can prevent these diseases, but can’t be used during the growing season due to phototoxicity. Use Agri-Mycin 17 Streptomycin now and next year before the disease hits.
A number of fungal diseases may also contribute to lost leaves on a plum tree, and these include: Armillaria root and crown rot, Phytophthora, and Verticillium wilt. Foliar diseases, such as plum leaf spot, may be the culprit too. Sanitation, by raking and disposing of infected leaves should be implemented and a fungicide may be applied after the petals drop. Post harvest, a mixture of copper sulfate and lime can be applied.
Pests – Spider mites or an aphid infestation may also result in plum tree leaf drop. Also, the honeydew excreted by aphids leads to sooty mold. A strong spray of water can reduce the aphid population and a dormant oil spray at bud swell can be applied.
Like all plants however things can go wrong and this page is designed to help you identify what the problem is and the best method of dealing with it. Each pest /disease has a clear picture showing the typical damage which can be caused.
Because plum trees can deal with a good amount of neglect, many of the problems are associated with old age. Another cause of problems with plum trees is frost. Plant them in a frost pocket and the tree will survive but fruit will suffer.
Some trees tend to hang on to a portion of their leaves through the winter, making spring leaf drop perfectly normal. We usually think of fall as the season for shedding, but there are a few tree species that go against the grain.
But if you don’t have a tree that naturally loses its leaves in spring, your tree could have an infection. First, see what type of tree you have . Then, examine its fallen leaves to see if they’re curled and brown instead of smooth and green.
If your tree is dropping leaves that look green and healthy, all is probably good! You likely just have a tree that naturally sheds in spring. Below are the most common trees that do this.
Common Trees That Lose Their leaves in Spring
If your fallen tree leaves appear curled, spotted, or brown, anthracnose could be the issue. Anthracnose is the catch-all name for different fungal diseases that attack all kinds of trees. Plus, it’s most common in damp, cool springtime weather.
Ash trees, particularly white and green ash, are often affected by anthracnose. You’ll see the same signs as listed above.
Fortunately, most tree types–including ash– can easily shake off anthracnose. While the fungus can cause some leaves to fall, a flush of fresh leaves should come in within a few months.
While you wait, the best thing to do is get rid of the branches seriously affected and reboot your tree’s health.
Leaf curl plum aphids' habit of hiding inside curled leaves makes control of this pest problematic. Any insecticide that relies on contact is likely to be ineffective unless applied early in the season before the leaves curl. However, nature provides its own control through natural predators and parasites. Brown lacewings, green lacewings, lady beetles, soldier beetles and syrphid flies prey on leaf curl plum aphids.
To encourage these predators to do their work, avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides. This type of insecticide is harmful to a wide range of insects, including beneficial pest predators. Avoid spraying your plum tree with these insecticides and elsewhere in your garden where the predators live and reproduce.
Plum trees, like most fruit trees, are vulnerable to multiple diseases and parasites.
Again, aphids are the plum tree’s most common enemy. Here is how to fight aphids efficiently.
As a deterrent against aphids, several organic treatments are available such as spraying fermented stinging nettle tea or fermented horsetail tea. Both help reinforce the plum tree’s defense mechanisms and also help it avoid certain types of fungus.
Also, if fungus such as plum rot (European brown rot) or rust appear, there are specific treatments that can be applied.
Many viruses may infect ornamental plum trees. Prunus ringspot virus is the most prolific, attacking nearly all plum species. It causes a wide range of foliar symptoms, with leaf patterns that include spots, rings, bands and mosaics. Advanced disease stages may stunt tree growth, although viruses rarely cause tree death. As with viruses in other plants, there is no cure for these diseases. The best defense is maintaining healthy trees by not over-fertilizing, providing enough water and planting trees in well-draining sites.
Victoria Lee Blackstone is a horticulturist and a professional writer who has authored research-based scientific/technical papers, horticultural articles, and magazine and newspaper articles. After studying botany and microbiology at Clemson University, Blackstone was hired as a University of Georgia Master Gardener Coordinator. She is also a former mortgage acquisition specialist for Freddie Mac in Atlanta, GA.
Purple leaf plum tree can be grown in any soil type, though a rich loamy soil is preferred, and it should be moist and well drained. A slightly acidic soil is suitable for planting this tree, though it can be grown in other types of soil too.
The place selected for growing this tree should be well exposed to sunlight. The trees that are grown in shady areas usually produce green and not purple leaves. Though it can withstand heat and drought to some extent, watering during summer will prove beneficial for the healthy growth of the tree.
This is a very important part of maintenance and care for the purple leaf plum tree. Pruning can encourage blossoming of this tree and make it more attractive. It is also important to remove the damaged and dead branches occasionally to retain the ornamental value.
Watering should be done on a regular basis, but do not water the plant too often. If it gets too hot, water the tree deeply at its base. A point to note is that a young plum tree has a tendency to bend, especially after a rain. Though it does regain its former posture once the leaves have dried completely, a heavy rain can result in permanent drooping. This problem can also be solved by pruning.
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Though the tree is great for enhancing the look of your garden and lawn, the flowers can attract many undesirable insects. Bees will be more common during the flowering season, while the tree is also vulnerable to tent caterpillars, aphids, mealy bugs and other pests.
You may also witness some diseases like gray mold, cankers and leaf spots that can diminish the beauty of the purple leaf plum tree. Therefore, make sure to take care of this tree to give an attractive and fresh look to your garden.