How Too Much Rain Can Harm Peach Trees

So far this year we have had quite a bit of rainfall.  We have had torrential rains that caused flooding. We have had rain that fell (seemingly) every day for weeks. This could lead to situations where some peach trees may fail to make it when planted in heavy soils. Peaches, and other species in the Prunus genus, are extremely susceptible to soil flooding. Although a lot of variation exists depending on species and rootstock, in most cases 2-5 days of soil saturation is enough to kill a peach tree and in some instances as little as 1 day. This is not only attributed to lack of oxygen (hypoxia), but the anaerobic conditions create a hydrolysis of cyanogenic glycosides in the roots that leads to the production of cyanide and thus a toxic environment in the rhizosphere. I have personally witnessed several trees that died due to saturated soil conditions and heard anecdotal evidence of others. So, for peach trees, what is the best way to prevent this situation from occurrring?

If trees are already in the ground in a poorly drained soil there is precious little one can do, but if one is considering planting a new peach tree a couple options are available: plant on well-drained soil or plant on a berm.

Site selection is critical, although many homeowners don’t have much of a choice. If they want a peach tree they plant it on the land they have available to them. They can however create a berm (essentially a raised bed) to plant the tree on. This will improve drainage, but will also dry out faster, so irrigation is a must during the dry times. Peach trees are not very hardy plants. They can suffer mightily from drought and flooding, they are susceptible to many diseases and insects, as well as frosts. Growing peaches is not for the faint of heart and when they are not planted in the right place, they might just expose themselves to enough cyanide to commit suicide.

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3 responses

  1. SHOOT!!!! I’m here in Greenville, SC and so far I have had 1 prune completely die, 1 asian pear and one peach tree drop all of their leaves. I have a monster peach tree that is looking a bit yellow. They seem to be green under the back so maybe they will come back. Horrible as they after years of pruning them they looked gorgeous before the rain started.

    • Nick:
      Perhaps they will come out of it after the rain stops and things start to dry out. This happened to me when I was in Oklahoma. It rained for 28 days in a row and saturated the soil. Great looking peaches and cherry trees died.

      • Hey,
        Yep. Makes me want to cry. I have been pruning them for several years and pinching off the fruit waiting until they got a little bigger. I clipped back some of the tips and they are still showing a little green. The one that completely died back is in a little low spot. I planted it there so it would get lots of water as its been dry the last few years. Oh well. I will keep my fingers crossed to see if it comes back.

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