It’s currently summer here in Austin, Texas, and two things are certain: it’s peach season, and it gets HOT. So hot, that many of the peach trees get drooping and wilting leaves. Since I’ve seen this concern come up a few times, I wanted to do more research and find out all of the causes behind drooping and wilting leaves on peach trees and what we can do to fix them. So, here’s what I found.
The main reason why peach trees get drooping leaves is due to under-watering, but over-watering can also cause it. First, check the soil’s moisture by pushing a finger 2-4 inches into the soil. If it’s dry, water it and consider using mulch. If it’s sopping wet, hold off on watering and let it dry slightly.
So, while peach trees can get droopy leaves from improper watering, what are the other causes, and how can we fix them? Let’s take a look at the details.
Under-Watering or Heat Stress
Peach trees can get drooping leaves from under-watering or a climate that’s too hot and dry. To prevent drooping or wilting, only water the tree when the top 2-4 inches of soil is dry and grow in the proper climates. Peach trees do best in USDA hardiness zones 6-8 but many varieties can survive in zones 4-9.
For best results, only water when the top 2-4 inches of soil is dry. You can check for this by pushing a finger into the soil, under the canopy of the tree. Additionally, providing 2 inches of compost and mulch on top of the soil will greatly improve water retention and reduce evaporation.
In extremely hot weather, you can cool peach trees by providing:
Compost greatly increases the soil’s richness—every 1% increase can help hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre. On the other hand, mulch dramatically reduces evaporation from the soil. Some good mulches for peach trees include leaves, grass clippings, pine needles, and straw. When applying compost and mulch, keep them at least 3 inches from the trunk to prevent mold and disease from spreading.
Additionally, you can provide some afternoon shade for your peach tree. Generally, the afternoon sun is much hotter than the morning sun, so try creating shading from the west side. Aim to shade the tree from 2pm and beyond, especially if temperatures are over 100ºF. Some objects you can use to create shade are umbrellas, shade sails, and other trees.
Potted peach trees can be brought indoors or under the shade of the roof during excessively hot weather. If the temperature between the two environments is extreme, move the tree gradually over two weeks if possible. With sudden swings in temperature, the peach tree can get even more stressed, leading to more drooping, browning, and dropping leaves.
The stress of over-watering can cause the peach tree to develop conditions such as drooping, yellowing, and shedding leaves. To prevent over-watering, make sure the peach tree’s soil is well-draining. Most potting soils have good drainage, but it can be improved by elevating the tree or amending the soil.
If you find that your peach tree’s soil is staying sopping wet 1 or more hours after watering, the soil likely needs to be amended. You can amend the tree’s soil by applying 2 inches of both sand and compost on top of the soil, under the tree’s canopy. These materials will work their way into the soil over time and help break up the clumps.
You can also plant your peach tree on a mound, hill, or raised bed. The higher elevation will let gravity assist in pulling more water out of the soil.
If you have a potted peach tree with poor drainage, you can amend its soil by drilling more holes in the pot or by adding sand and compost as mentioned above.
Avoid repotting or relocating your peach tree unless it’s waterlogged and it’s the only option left. Replanting your peach tree can create transplant shock and cause even more issues.
For more information on treating peach trees with yellow leaves, you can check out my recent post: How To Fix Yellow Leaves on Peach Trees.
Transplant shock can occur when the peach tree is relocated or repotted. This causes extreme stress to the plant, especially if it was handled roughly, which leads to drooping leaves. For best results, only transplant peach trees when needed and avoid damaging the rootball. Water generously after transplanting.
If you’ve recently planted or moved your peach tree, and you noticed it starting to get drooping or wilting leaves, chances are it’s a bit stressed from being transplanted.
Generally, I follow a few quick transplanting tips to help make sure my plants don’t get too stressed:
- Have the new ground (or pot) prepared
- Remove as much of the tree’s current topsoil as possible, without damaging the shallow roots
- Grab the base of the tree’s trunk and wiggle lightly
- Using your other hand, scoop up and support the rootball
- Lightly place the tree in the new ground (or pot) and fill it in
- Make sure the soil is at the same level on the trunk as before
- Apply 2 inches of compost and mulch to the top of the soil (at least 3 inches away from the trunk)
- Water generously and add more soil as needed
After transplanting, one of the biggest energy focuses for the tree is to establish a new root system. Because of this, it can take most trees up to one year to completely recover from transplanting.
With sufficient watering, nutrients, and care, your peach tree should recover fairly quickly from transplant shock.
Peach tree leaves can wilt, droop, and fall off if the tree is entering dormancy. Dormancy is a normal survival technique for deciduous trees and typically occurs in the fall and winter when temperatures drop below 45ºF. The tree’s leaves will shed and then regrow in the spring when dormancy is broken.
Since peach trees are deciduous trees, it’s normal for them to lose their leaves in the fall and winter. They also require about 800 chill hours per year. Chill hours are when temperatures reach 45ºF and below. This creates a dormancy for peach trees, allowing them to survive the winter and go through a growth spurt in the spring.
However, a peach tree’s dormancy will break if they are exposed to temperatures above 45ºF during the winter. When this happens, the tree will start growing again and develop new leaves and blossoms. This can pose a problem as any future frosts in the season can quickly kill the young leaves and blossoms, stunting the tree’s growth for the next year.
Additionally, avoid fertilizing peach trees in the winter.
Like hibernating bears, the trees stored nutrients throughout the warmer seasons, and will use them during their dormancy. Any added nutrients to the soil can remain there throughout winter, and can chemically burn the tree’s roots. This is especially true for fertilizers that are fast-release and high in nitrogen.
Peach trees get drooping and wilting leaves from improper watering, heat stress, transplant shock, and dormancy, but by far the most common is watering. Make sure the tree’s soil is well-draining and you’re providing it with enough water, especially in the summer.
Also, apply 2 inches each of compost and mulch to help the tree and soil retain water. You can also use companion plants as a source of mulch. Shade the peach tree in the afternoon if you live in a region that gets 100ºF or hotter.
Finally, if you’ve checked the watering and weather, and haven’t transplanted your peach tree recently, there’s a chance it’s starting to enter dormancy. This is normal for peach trees in the fall and winter, and as long as the temperatures don’t drop below -30ºF (depending on the variety of peach tree), the tree will regrow its leaves in the spring.
If you need additional help identifying and treating your peach trees symptoms, feel free to check out my recent post: How To Revive a Dying Peach Tree (3 Quick Steps).
You can also consult your local nursery, professional orchard, or your cooperative extension service.