I planted fruit trees last fall, and all are doing well but the semi-dwarf Golden Delicious apple tree. The tree never got any leaves on it, but had lots of suckers growing from the bottom of the tree. The upper tree looks dead. Is the tree doomed?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Erika: I am sorry to say that it does not sound good for your apple tree. If it did not have any foliage at all this year it is no longer alive. Plant failure can be a result of many different factors, including not enough or too much water, improper planting, and/or the plant not being healthy to begin with. Fruit trees that we purchase from our local garden centers are most commonly grafted. This method of propagation means that the top of the tree is different from the bottom of the tree. So, the top of your Golden Delicious is indeed that but the lower part of the tree, a few inches above the base, including the root system, is that of another apple. Growers graft fruit trees for several different reasons, the most important reason being that it makes the trees hardier because it can allow for optimal nutrients. Grafting can manipulate the size of the tree as well as make them more resistant to insect and disease problems. I tell you this because the suckers you have growing from the base of your tree are coming up from the root system of another apple, not that of the Golden Delicious. Go ahead and remove the tree, but check with the nursery you purchased your trees from and see what their guarantee policy is. They may replace it for you or give you a discount on a replacement.