Minnie Royal and Royal Lee cherry keeps dying!@

I planted two sets of Royal Lees and two sets of Minnie Royals about 5 years ago. All the trees were producing very nice cherries. Last year, suddenly out of the blue, one of the Minnie Royals died and one of the Royal Lee’s died. They were both located at my side gate. I thought maybe the clay soil was a problem, although they did very well for the prior 4-5 years.

Well this year, the other two remaining trees produced a massive amount of cherries and we were very happy. Then in July, all the leaves were dropping and brown. I thought nothing of it and today the two trees are pretty much dead. Not sure whats going on. The soil on this side is very good quality. They were very large trees, maybe 13’ tall and the trunk had a diameter of maybe 7".

I do notice the trunk has a weird thing going on and its on both trees but its been that way for years. ANy ideas what this is?

Also, these are suppose to be dwarfs and the rootstock is “new rootstock”.

It may be a type of root rot or collar rot. It would help if you supplied more information. Some more pictures of both trees would be helpful. A couple pics of the dark area below the graft union and then a pic that shows more of the tree including the branches. You may try removing some of the soil around the trunk and taking a picture of that too.

Some additional questions:

What state and hardiness zone are you in?

When you say the leaves turned brown and dropped in July did they just go limp, turn brown and drop? Or did they discolor, have spotting or holes or other signs of disease? How was the moisture level in the soil when the leaves started dropping?

From the picture it looks like you trimmed some suckers from the tree is that the case or is that just some debris? Also were all the trees on the same rootstock?

And you are located where? No info on your profile.


I’m in San Diego. We dont get that much chill but its been enough to get the trees to bear fruit last 5 years.

Yes I have been trimming the little spouts that keep growing off the trunk.

They turned brown in July but did not drop. The leaves are still on the branches but its obviously dead. I cut a few of the branches three weeks ago to see if the branch was dead. AT that time, the branch still showed lots of green so I thought things were fine. Then last weekend, I cut a few branches again to see how it was and most the branches were completely dead. There are still a few branches that have a little life left.

Leaves look normal and not diseased. The soil is dry not too damp. We did go through a big heat wave in July and August but I gave water to the trees during the heat wave.


The leaves


The soil dug up a little


Cherry trees have high mortality rates in general and, from reports I have seen, it’s even worse for trees on the Newroot-1 rootstock.

My royal lee died after just one year. never got any fruit. Mine
came from Peaceful Valley. In fact all but one of the trees I got
from them died, except for one. I blamed it on the nursery, and one of the trees even failed to break dormancy. The one tree that survived and grew nicely is mislabled. Will never buy from them again.

Well from what you stated and the pictures the disease isn’t one of the common leaf diseases and I see no signs of bacterial canker. It may be root rot or crown rot but your soil is fairly dry and those diseases are much more likely with wet soil. Here is a link that can help you identify them:

There are other diseases that effect the roots but it may be hard to identify them without some digging around the base of the tree and some online research.

I suspect you want to replace the trees but are not sure if new trees would suffer the same fate as the old ones. If you do want to replace the trees I would use a different rootstock. Krymsk 5 and Maxma 14 are both semi-dwarf rootstocks you should consider. I would try not to replant in the same place the old trees were located if possible. I would also try to replant in a high spot in the yard or on a mound or raised bed.

You may want to read this guide to cherry rootstocks. It has some useful info.

My experience is consistent with @stan’s reports. All the trees I had on this rootstock failed after a few years and I pulled them. They also dropped their leaves very early–at least a month before those on Colt or Maheleb. @125mph, don’t worry about the weird-looking size difference between the rootstock and the tree you featured in a couple of the pictures and asked about. That’s not abnormal and an artifact of the relative vigor of the rootstock and fruiting variety. San Diego has a fruit grower group and someone there may be able to give you some other replant options. M.R. and R.L. are varieties that I think are only sold from one source and I don’t know if you can get them on different rootstocks. You might ask if anyone has had success in your locale with ‘Cristobalina’ which you can get on other rootstocks or graft onto a rootstock of your liking.

1 Like

Thanks everyone! I will just go with the theory that it wasnt me and it was the failed Newroot1 rootstock.

It looks like the royal lee and minnie royals are no longer sold in the newroot-1 rootstock. Maybe it was a failure and figured out it wasnt good?.. THey are now only in mazzard and Maxma14. I will try them again when they become avaiable. I’m told in late December or January. I will also try the Cristobalina if that becomes available as well!

Hi @125mph

I am in North County, and am curious where you are located in San Diego as climates can vary A LOT!

I planted all three of the low chill varieties this year and have been chugging along well. I planted RL, MR and Royal Crimson. The RL/MR are on Mazzard and the RC is on M14.

The trees didnt look to happy for a bit after planting but once I increased watering they really took off.

From your first photo, are the things sticking up weeds or are those cherry suckers? Also, that over growth on the trunk is that calloused bark at the graft line or is that weed whacker damage.

Im sorry about losing such nice trees. How were the cherries? I hope they tasted fantatstic! How many chill hours do you get on average?

Take care,


Hi @Sean ,

I live in Normal Heights, zipcode 92116. Not much chilling hours, probably less than you. This year, I had a massive batch of cherries from both trees. I would say 4-5 large bowls of cherries. They tasted very good.

The things sticking up are the suckers. I had to cut them down every 2 months otherwise they would start taking over the trunk.

Not sure about the graft line but we dont use a weed wacker or any of those tools.

I personally wouldn’t go with Cristabolina, I read that the fruit quality leaves a lot to be desired. Go for Royal Crimson instead. It seems that MaxMa 14 is the standard from DWN for those varieties. Was the RL noticeably better than MR tastewise?

@125mph wow that is fantastic, I was thinking you were going to say deep east county…or somewhere that gets MUCH more chill than normal heights. Could you please talk a bit about your cultural techniques with these, specifically pruning, fertilization and watering schedule?

My trees are doing well, growing very vigorously and have responded well to pruning. I’ve cut them twice so far because I wasnt happy with the height of the tree. Also, do you have any issues with oriental fruit moth affecting new growth or issues with the fruit?

Thanks so much!

@Sean I’m just a novice. I don’t do any pruning and i just water once a week. I add standard fertilizer once every quarter. They seem to be doing well until they just died :frowning: