Fireblight Problem, etc

I am in New England and six years ago I planted a small orchard and finally last year some flowers were on the trees. This was somewhat delayed by the low potassium levels in my soil. Last year proved dire! Frost kill, no bees as it was so cold and then wet, wet and more wet. Then along came fireblight! I grubbed out two trees last year and now two days ago I noticed two more that had systemic symptoms after bud burst and grubbed them out too. So four good looking trees lost to fireblight after six years of TLC. Another murdered by a vole when the guard was off for a short period.

I have a large old wild apple tree growing next to the orchard which shows no sign of fireblight. However, could it carry the disease without showing it? I am reluctant to fell it.

Also, my apricot flowered and bees present, but zero fruit set. I am hoping it’s not the same story with the Santa Rosa plum and the peach which has not dropped its petals yet.

Blueberries have done well so far.

I moved from the UK and wondering what it takes to grow fruit in the US!


1 Like

Welcome to the forum (and to the other side of the pond)!

I’m also in New England and also growing apples, so while I’m far from being an expert I’m going to offer a few thoughts and hope others will jump in.

Just to start things off, growing conditions vary significantly within New England, so depending on where people are their perspectives and experiences may be quite a bit different. What’s true for me in Western Mass may not be true for people like @hobilus up in NH (I think), or @steveb4 up in Northern Maine, or even @mamuang a ways east of me.

Yeah, that was a rough year for pretty much everyone in this part of the country.

Rabbits will do that, too, if you have them, and if you have deer you may have other problems. Tree guards are definitely key.

Sorry to hear that! I lost a tree to fireblight last year (turns out the variety was unusually susceptible), but it was on Geneva rootstock (G41), so that survived and is putting out new shoots, and I’ll be able to regraft as soon as next year. While people have different opinions of the Geneva stocks, I tend to think they’re worth it for precisely this reason.

Different people will have different takes on this, but I would be reluctant to cut it as well. If nothing else, it shows that apples can grow well in New England with relatively little care, which has been my observation in our area. Fireblight resistant pears and Asian pears can also do well.

Stone fruit tends to be hit or miss in our part of New England (and from what I understand, with apricots especially, it’s mostly miss). I don’t personally grow a lot of stone fruit for this reason, just a couple of peaches (one new this year) and a tart cherry (also new this year). My personal stance is that I regard them as primarily as ornamentals that come with a lottery ticket as far as actually getting fruit goes, but I realize that’s not going to be satisfying for many people. Other people will have more insight on this subject.

Blueberries are awesome! Blackberries and raspberries are also good and relatively low-maintenance options in much of New England. Elderberries, mulberries, serviceberries, tart cherries, and bush cherries might also be things to think about. Currants can be good if you live in a place where you’re allowed to grow them (they’re prohibited in many parts of New England due to concerns with white pine blister rust). Aronia seems to be pretty bulletproof, though the fruit is best blended with other things.

Hope this is helpful! I’m sure people will have other suggestions.


if you want fruit here you have to do your research and plant disease resistant types or spray your trees. apples like Willams pride, pristine and black oxford are very disease resistant. you have found your best source of info. right here. research what you want to plant thoroughly before you buy. it will save you heartache down the road. welcome to the forum.


As Steve said, you really do need to research what you are planting. I find local members on the forum to often be one of the best sources. You can review the members map at the below link to determine which members are located near you. Likely in their biography they will list what does well that they grow. You can reach out by PM to them for advice. And you can gain a lot of ideas from them on what to try next.
Best wishes and welcome to the forum
Kent, Wa


You may be in an area with high fireblight pressure. What were the cultivars of apples that were lost and what were the rootstocks (if known)?

Here is a link to a post with a bunch of links to fireblight resistance tables. I would look at the the purdue one first it’s the second one on the list.

Most fireblight resistant apples - #26 by mroot


Here is what I have noticed about apples here in southern middle Tennessee.

Apples that bloom early, set fruit early (FG2)… often escape fire blight… but often lose entire crop to late frost.

Apples that bloom later FG4… may escape late frost (mine did this year) but since they were blooming later it was warmer and wet… and they all got blasted with fire blight.

If the frost or fire blight does not get them there is a whole host of pest just waiting to seriously mess them up.

Not much luck with apples here either.

1 Like

Welcome to the forum. I am sorry to hear your struggle with growing fruit trees in New England. Wehave a lot of forum members in New England. Together, I am convinced that we would be able to give you useful suggestion to prevent further damage.

A few questions for you

  • where you are in New England. Location is useful info. Telling us the state and county would help us get a better idea what your climate is like.

What are the varieties of apples you grew including the ones that succumbed to fire blight.

What is the variety of your apricot?

As you have realized, we have had a lot of rain when fruit trees are in bloom. Sometimes, it is also too cold for flying insect to come out to work.

Voles usually eats roots and feed near ground level. Bunnies go after tree trunks. We have plenty of them here. And don’t forget about deer and other animals.

But do not be discouraged. We are here to help.



I am in Franklin County, Western Mass.

Varieties lost to fireblight:

Cornish Gilliflower Macoun. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Arkansas Black

D’Arcy Spice

Other apples planted:

Spitzenberg. Black Oxford. Newtown Pippin. King of the Pippins

Bramley Seedling. Peasgood Nonsuch. Egremont Russet. Ashmeads Kernel


Pear Potomac. Pear Shenandoah. Peach Contender. Apricot Harogem

Cherry Balaton. Cherry Danube

1 Like

Are you in zone 5a or 5 b? For the MA member I know, @JinMA is closer to you than many of us who are on the eastern part of MA.
I spray synthetic to ward off diseases and bugs. I don’t know if @JinMA does.

I don’t grow many heirloom varieties but my Arkansas Black grafted on a Honey Crisp died of fire blight after a few years of fruiting. The mother tree has not been affected. Hopefully, those growing the heirloom varieties you have will chime in to let you know

@scottfsmith in MD grows a lot of apples and uses a low spray approach. He probably can tell you if the varieties you grow are susceptible to fire blight or not. If they are and you do not spray, best if you remove them.

I have a Potomac for 6 years now but it has not fruit. I like Harrow Sweet but some people from other areas report fire blight but I have it for almost 10 years without any fire blight. Copper spray I use may have help.

If you have temperature swings in winter or late freeze, peaches and apricots will be hit or miss each year.

I used to have Danube. It is the “sweetest” sour cherry but it very non productive. (Heard same reports from other growers, too) so I removed it. I grow Juliet sour cherry but you need to spray for brown rot. I have seen a full grown sour cherry ( Montmerency?)near me with no spray. Almost all fruit were rotted.

1 Like


Thank you for your comments and local knowledge!


I’m a bit south of you, down in Hampshire County.

We don’t have too much overlap in terms of varieties. I’m not growing any of the varieties you lost to FB. I did lose American Beauty last year (apparently it’s very susceptible) and had some blossom strikes on Roxbury Russet, though they didn’t progress and the tree seems fine this year.

Out of the others, the only ones I’m growing are Black Oxford and Bramley. Both have been healthy for me (but I’ve read that Bramley has some FB susceptibility). We’ve just been starting to get fruit, but our best apples so far have been Adams Pearmain, Gray Pearmain, Hunt Russet, Mother, and Kidd’s Orange Red. Looks like we will be getting more varieties to try this year.

The only pear we have really gotten fruit from so far is Korean Giant. If you like Asian pears, it’s a good one around here: easy to grow, precocious, productive, and tasty across a pretty wide harvest window. (Thanks to @mamuang for the tip.)

We have a Madison peach, but you’d have to ask the squirrels about the fruit. I planted a Redhaven and a Montmorency cherry this year. (Though about Contender but decided I would go for something a little earlier.)

To this point, I have not sprayed anything with anything. Our apples and pears are all in Belgian fences, so they get pruned pretty intensively. Apples get a little cedar apple rust but are mostly ok, and the fruit is mostly sound. Pears struggled a bit with blister mites early on but seem to have outgrown them. Rabbits/voles have damaged trees in the winter (especially the pears), but didn’t actually kill any of them, and caging the trees seems to have solved that problem. All in all things seem to bump along ok.


King of the Pippins is pretty susceptible. I still grow it but it’s almost bad enough to take out. In general the old English apples on average are worse than the American ones as fireblight was not around when those old English apples first got popular. Ashmeads has been ok, some blight but not too bad.

My view is it is important to take out the apples that are very prone to blight, to keep the overall infection levels down.


I am not so sure that a apple trees fireblight resistance rating will determine whether it gets FB or not

It may just indicate how likely the tree is to survive a strike.

Novamac is rated VR (very resistent) to FB, CAR, Scab, Rots…

Mine got a load of FB this year just like all my other trees did.

It is on B9 and trained espellar… has 4 scaffold branches. All 4 branches had multiple FB strikes (on individual fruit spurs / blossom clusters).

I simply removed all those black/brown fruit spurs down to the scaffold branch.

If Novamac is truly VR to FB… hopefully it lives with that minimal action.

If not… it may die.

Right now a week later no other FB strikes… and the fruit that was left is developing and looking good.



I wonder if the hail you had made conditions favorable for FB.

Like you say, there’s probably some variation in what FB resistance actually means, but when my American Beauty burned to the rootstock last year, I had a number of other trees in bloom that were completely unaffected. (Roxbury Russet did get a few strikes, as I mentioned, but nothing that went beyond blossoms/twigs.)

Just in general, while FB can be a problem in our part of New England, my understanding is that it’s generally not as bad as it is further south. I’d say that @POMOFRUCTUS was pretty unlucky in that regard (and last year seems to have been an exceptionally bad year around here).

I had FB before the hail.

I actually cut down and hauled off 3 apple trees on the day it hailed.

I think that just about any time you have apple blossoms, rain and warmer weather… very likely to have serious FB here.

Things that indicate that…

My Early Mc and pink flowering crab are both early bloomers… EM FG2… PFC FG1/2.

They both normally start and finish blooming while it is still quite cool.

They are my only trees to survive 20+ years.

But the EM often looses all fruit to a hard late frost since it blooms FG2 early.

I tried to fix that with several later blooming apples (6 total)… and they all grew and were perfectly healthy until they started blooming good… then FB wiped them out.

When a FG4 apple is blooming here… it is significantly warmer…than it was when the FG2 apples were blooming.

We get similar amounts of rain in FG2 and FG4…

Active Apple blossoms, warmer weather and rain… seems to be the perfect FB storm here.

1 Like

2 years ago… i had no FG4 apples blooming yet…

My Gold rush was blooming… think it is FG3.

The early blossoms on it all bloomed and set fruit. The later blossoms were still blooming after it warmed up significantly… and they all got blasted with FB.

It was my only tree to get FB that year…

My early blooming FG2 tree got none.

My earliest bloomer the pink flowering crab has never had any FB.

It was my only tree that bloomed this year that got no FB.

I think you may be right. UMN notes:

“In highly susceptible cultivars, the bacteria can move into the main trunk of the tree and even the roots. At this point, the tree will die.”

May I ask if you vigorously prune out any and all strikes? I’ve read some common wisdom that suggests removing a great deal beyond the strike, but it does seem others take a less aggressive approach. The latter has been how I’ve dealt with small strikes on potted trees in the past and it’s seemed fine, but at the time the trees were so young being aggressive would have cut it down to nothing. I just like to see what others are doing, especially with minimal spray/no spray regimens.

1 Like

Good question. When my American Beauty got hit, I tried cutting back until I hit healthy-looking wood, but unfortunately that took it all the way down to the ground. On the Roxbury Russet, I think I cut out a couple of strikes, but in the couple of places where twigs died back to the scaffold, I didn’t cut the scaffold, and in that case, fortunately, the disease didn’t spread further. Now that I think about it, there were a couple of strikes on my Korean Giant, too, and I handled those the same way that I did the Roxbury Russet, with the same result. No problems with the RR or KG this year.

I don’t know that this was the smartest way to handle things (probably not), but I tend to take kind of a “che sera, sera” approach. If something’s not gonna work, it’s not gonna work, and I’ll replace it with something else.

1 Like