Controlling and Removing Tree Suckers
Prevent your trees from being weakened by suckers and watersprouts stealing their water and nutrients. Knowing how and when to remove tree suckers will help you keep your tree healthy and thriving.
72tree.com gathered the following information about tree sucker and water sprout removal, the damages they cause trees, and how to properly control them.
Removing Tree Suckers
Allowing suckers to remain on your tree will only divert water and nutrients from the vegetative and fruiting wood that needs to grow strong and healthy. Suckers should be removed when they appear, and they will grow very quickly.
Suckers grow from the base of the trunk or from roots and will need to be removed manually. Ideally, they should be pruned back to the point where they emerge from a root or base of the tree. Consider the following:
• Using a hand trowel, expose the sucker to the area where it emerged from the root.
• Snip or cut it off at the base with a sharp pair of garden shears (leave the collar, where the tree sucker meets the tree, to help speed wound recovery)
• Cover the cut area (with soil) and allow it to heal
• Repeat this process for any other suckers
Avoid mowing these growths. Mowing activities can cause abnormal growth, and damaged growth can become a vector for disease and infestation.
Tip: Leaving a stub can make the problem worse by causing multiple shoots to form. You will need to dig to get to where suckers emerge from roots.
Note: Once suckers start developing on a tree, they will usually continue to occur for the rest of that tree’s life and will need to be removed regularly.
Watersprouts like suckers are fast-growing and tend to grow vertically, either from the trunk or from an existing branch. They, too, divert water and nutrients from the tree, block sunlight and air circulation. Here’s how to remove them:
• Identify watersprouts as being unnecessary growth to be pruned away
• Use pruning shears to cut them from the tree
• Cut them back to their point of emergence from the trunk/branch (again, leaving the collar, where the watersprout meets the tree, to accelerate wound recovery)
• Allow these wounds to heal like other pruning wounds
Tip: leaving a stub when removing watersprouts can make the problem worse by causing multiple shoots to form.
What Causes Tree Suckers and Watersprouts
When trees are stressed or have suffered trauma, they often respond by producing upright shoots called water sprouts and suckers. Here are some of the occurrences that can cause them to grow:
• Root Damage
• Root Loss
• Storm Damage
• Branch Loss
• Over/Improper Pruning
• Pruning Suckers
• Mower/Mechanical Damage
Note: Suckers and watersprouts can be a sign of a tree’s aging. Many trees will sucker as they grow old and start to decay or even die.
Water sprouts and suckers grow from dormant buds in the bark and/or roots and are flimsily attached to trees unless allowed to grow for many seasons.
Tip: Once you detect a problem with suckers and watersprouts, hire an arborist to evaluate the health of your tree(s).
Tree Sucker and Watersprout Control
There are products containing Napthalene Acetic Acid (NAA) labeled to control sprouts on certain trees. Research must still be done on their effectiveness with landscape trees.
Products similar to Bonide’s “Sucker Punch” have a water-based paraffin wax emulsion, so once it is applied, it will last for up to 6 months.
Similarly, some herbicides are effective at controlling and suppressing suckers but are not recommended for all plant or tree varieties. Likewise, herbicides applied to suckers can severely harm the tree. Such products should be applied by a certified arborist.
One of the best ways to prevent water sprouts and suckers on your trees is to keep them as healthy as possible with proper care and pruning. If your trees already have multiple sprouts, do your best to figure out (or call in a professional) to find out what is causing the stress and strategize to correct it.
Tree Suckers and Watersprouts
In this article, you discovered information about tree suckers and watersprouts, what damages they can do to your trees, and how to properly remove them.
Knowing why suckers and watersprouts grow on trees will help you determine if there is more severe damage occurring within the tree or what steps should be taken to increase the tree’s vigor.
Ignoring a problem with watersprouts and suckers can make a troubled tree even further from recovery. As time passes, your tree’s water and nutrients can become severely depleted, leading to more tree problems, infections, infestations, and eventual death.
9 Small Trees for Landscaping Smaller Yards
Prevent overcrowding and killing your smaller yard with overstory trees. Knowing which trees remain small through maturity will help you create a balanced, long-lived ecosystem for your landscape.
72tree.com assembled the following 9 tree species selections and information to help you select trees that match the size of your landscape and leave room for their roots to properly develop.
1. Japanese Maple
Few trees show off their splendor like the Japanese maple in its fall colors. There are numerous ways to use this little tree in your yard. You can plant it as a specimen tree (in a partly shaded spot) or use it as a shade or privacy tree along your property line.
Scientific Name – Acer palmatum
USDA Hardiness Zone – 5 – 8
Soil Requirements – moist, well-drained soil
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade
Color Varieties – burgundy foliage turning red in fall
2. Crape Myrtle
Crepe myrtle species are a favorite among southern gardeners and roadway landscapers. (Crepe myrtle is the preferred name in the south). The draw for this plant is that it blooms at a time when most trees are not blooming. Healthy trees will be covered with blooms that last for months during the hottest part of the summer.
Crepe myrtles are deciduous, grow quickly, and will often grow in their multi-stemmed form.
Scientific Name – Lagerstroemia indica
USDA Hardiness Zone – 7 – 9
Soil Requirements – Will grow in nearly all soil types
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade
Color Varieties – white, pink, red, lavender
Desired for its striking pink or white flower display in spring, redbud is an easy-to-care-for small tree with heart-shaped leaves that turn golden-yellow in fall.
Scientific Name – Cercis canadensis
USDA Hardiness Zone – 5 – 9
Soil Requirements – requires well-drained soil
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade
Color Varieties – species ranges from golden-yellow and purple foliage and white to pink flowers
4. Flowering (ornamental) Peach
The Bonfire Flowering Peach tree is a small ornamental tree with a bold personality. This tree is undeniable when its branches are peppered with fragrant pink blossoms in the spring!” Once the flowers fade, large burgundy, drooping leaves grow in, stealing the show. You won’t get edible peaches from this species, but you will get a fragrant and impressive display of flowers and foliage that will meet your need for drama in the landscape!
Scientific Name – Prunus persica ‘Bonfire’
USDA Hardiness Zone – 5 – 8
Soil Requirements – Prefers moist, acidic soils
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure
Color Varieties – dark red leaves and double pink-red flowers
5. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel trees have highly desirable shaggy, citrus-scented blossoms in a rich yellow, orange, and red shades. Some species bloom in late winter before the leaves open, and others show off in the fall. These are small trees, averaging 10 to 20 feet tall, and are low maintenance. Prune in the early spring if you need to remove damaged portions or shape the plant.
Scientific Name – Hamamelis
USDA Hardiness Zone – 3 – 8
Soil Requirements – Average or medium moisture and well-draining
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade
Color Varieties – Orange, red, and yellow
Plant a colorful display to your landscape with crabapples. There’s a wide range of species available that bear white, pink, and/or flowers. The ‘Prairifire’ species has dark pink flowers, reddish-purple foliage, and is disease resistant. The ‘Centurion’ variety has pink flowers, an upright shape, and great disease resistance. Crabapples are known for producing orange, gold, red, or burgundy fruit.
Scientific Name – Malus
USDA Hardiness Zone – 4 – 8
Soil Requirements – medium moisture, well-drained soil
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure
Color Varieties – Flowers in shades of white, pink, and red with orange, gold, red, or burgundy fruit
7. Magnolia Randy
If you had space for one flowering tree to plant in your tiny yard, you may find some difficulty choosing, but Magnolia ‘Randy’ would be an excellent one. The beauty of this Magnolia was famously developed as part of the little girl series of hybrid Magnolias developed by the National Arboretum. All bred to be small deciduous low-branched trees growing only to 15 feet tall with oval habits and later spring blooming. ‘Randy’ will give you reddish-purple flowers on the outside and white on the inside. Then there’s the star-shaped flower that might pop up randomly in the middle of the summer for a second bloom.
This species is part of the Little Girl series (‘Ann,’ ‘Betty,’ ‘Jane,’ ‘Judy,’ ‘Pinkie,’ ‘Randy,’ ‘Ricki,’ and ‘Susan’) of hybrid magnolias developed at the National Arboretum in the mid-1950s by Francis DeVos and William Kosar.
Scientific Name – Magnolia ‘Randy’
USDA Hardiness Zone – 4 – 8
Soil Requirements – organically rich, neutral to slightly acidic
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade
Color Varieties – Dark Pink Blooms and green foliage
8. Dragon Lady Holly
Multiple holly species, cultivars, and varieties could be selected for a small space, but the Dragon Lady Holly is an excellent choice for a few reasons. It is widely available, where other dwarf cultivars or uncommon varieties may require special ordering. The Dragon Lady cultivar is a female plant that needs a male for pollination to produce berries. Finally, its conical form requires very little maintenance, and it only grows to heights of about 15 feet or so. If you want a holly in your small space, this species makes sense.
Scientific Name – Ilex aquipernyi
USDA Hardiness Zone – 6 – 8
Soil Requirements – Acidic, moist, well-drained soils
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure
Color Varieties – Green with Bright Red Berries
9. Powder Puff
Whether growing it as a large shrub or prune it into a small tree, powder puff will treat you with its fluffy and fragrant red, pink, or white summer flowers. It’s a heat-loving, drought-resistant variety specialized for the warmest areas of California, Texas, and Florida.
Scientific Name – Calliandra haematocephala
USDA Hardiness Zone – 9 – 11
Soil Requirements – Moist, well-drained, fertile soil
Optimal Sun Exposure – Full sun exposure
Color Varieties – red, pink, or white flowers
Small Trees for Tiny Yards
In this article, you discovered 9 tree species for small landscapes that help you avoid overcrowding and root competition.
Planting appropriately sized trees for your tiny yard allows you to develop a hardy and healthy ecosystem for your plants, trees, and shrubs without any of them choking out the other.
When you plant trees that end up dwarfing other plant life, you are robbing your landscape of vitally needed sunlight, soil nutrition, and physical space for all your plants, shrubs, and trees to flourish.
5 Best Indoor Fruit Trees for Your Home
Avoid having to consume pesticide filled fruits, or being limited to what you can grow because you don’t live in a tropical region. Knowing how to grow fruit trees in your home will help you eliminate unhealthy chemical consumption and enable the enjoyment of growing your own fruit.
72tree.com assembled the following growing and care information about five fruit tree species you can successfully grow indoors.
Indoor Fruit Tree Species
The following 5 fruit tree species adapt well to indoor growth without requiring any over-the-top or intensive care requirements:
1. Dwarf Meyer Lemon Trees (Citrus × meyeri)
Dwarf Meyer lemon trees are one of the most popular fruit trees to grow indoors. Like most citrus trees, this species is self-pollinating, dispensing with the need for a second tree to accomplish fertilization.
Fruit – Meyer lemon trees typically bear fruit after 2 or three years, depending on their growing environment. While the trees are self-pollinating, you can increase the crop yield by using a small paintbrush to gently spread the pollen from flower to flower when the tree is in bloom.
Soil Requirements – The most appropriate soil for growing healthy Meyer lemon trees is slightly acidic (between 5.5 and 6.5) and loam (2 parts sand to 2 parts silt to 1 part clay).
Watering – Keep the soil slightly moist without letting it dry out completely. (When watering, note that citrus trees prefer a tepid, lukewarm temperature to freezing cold.)
• Due to the salt content of your tap water, you could inadvertently end up causing marginal leaf scorch or reducing your tree’s ability to absorb water
• Citrus trees prefer ambient to lukewarm water vs. cold or freezing water
• Citrus trees like elevated amounts of moisture in the air, up to 50 percent humidity (typically the upper threshold for a home’s humidity)
• You can simulate this environment by regularly spritzing them with filtered water from a spray bottle
Growing Location – Citrus tree species need sunlight. In fact, 8 to 12 hours of it daily.
• Put your tree in the sunniest window you have, even better if it’s a room with double exposure
• If you have any outdoor space, a few weeks in summer, fresh air will serve your tree well
Note: The same care tips that apply to #1 – Dwarf Meyer Lemons also apply to #2 – Dwarf Key Limes and #3 – Dwarf Orange Trees.
2. Dwarf Key Lime Trees (Citrus aurantifolia)
Dwarf key lime trees are another popular choice for indoor fruit trees (convenient for those who enjoy making key lime pie). This species typically grows from 2 to 4-feet tall, is self-pollinating, and bears fruit within 1 to 3 years.
3. Dwarf Orange Trees (Various genus Citrus)
Several sweet orange varieties, including navel oranges(Citrus sinensis), Valencia oranges, Mandarin oranges (Citrus reticulata), and Blood oranges (Citrus sinensis ‘Moro’), can be found on dwarf rootstocks for indoor cultivation.
• These trees will grow from 6 to 12-feet tall
• They are self-pollinating, and will take anywhere from 2 to 4 years before bearing fruit
• This is significant, as orange tree varieties grown from seed can take up to 15 years before bearing fruit.
Observe these additional care tips for dwarf Meyer lemon, Key lime, and orange trees kept indoors:
• Poor drainage can kill citrus trees. They are not tolerant of standing water in any way
• Overwatering can also kill your citrus trees
• Use terra cotta pots that darken when the soil is moist and deep water your trees when the soil is dry, allowing ample saucer space for all of the excess water to run off
• Light to severe chlorosis, drooping leaves, and falling leaves are indications of a nitrogen deficiency (fertilize to compensate)
• During winter months, mist your citrus trees daily or invest in a dedicated humidifier
• Do not expose citrus trees to cold drafts. Opening a door or window for them on a cold day can stress your citrus trees (and all your other plants)
• Stressed plants are susceptible to diseases and pests
#4. Dwarf Banana Tree (Musa acuminata)
Banana trees are self-pollinating, dispensing with the need for a second tree for pollination.
Fruit – It will take 9 to 15 months before the tree starts flowering, then an additional two to six months before the bananas are ready to be picked.
Soil Requirements – An indoor dwarf banana plant needs rich, humus-like, and well-draining soil. Fertilize it monthly to keep it flourishing.
Watering – They like lots of water due to their enormous leaves, but you’ll want to let the soil dry out thoroughly between waterings. The leaves can be misted to simulate a humid climate.
Growing Location – Banana trees, like most tropical plants, need an abundance of sunlight and humidity.
• Your banana tree should get full sun for 8-12 hours per day
• A southern exposure window is ideal
• Rotate your banana plant often so that all sides are well-exposed to light
Note: Dwarf varieties, such as Dwarf Lady Finger, Super Dwarf Cavendish, or Dwarf Red are especially well suited for containers and can produce fruit much sooner than other varieties, sometimes only 8 to 10 months after planting.
#5. Dwarf Everbearing Mulberry Tree (Morus nigra)
Self-pollinating dwarf Everbearing Mulberry varieties (Morus Alba pendula, Morus serrata, and Morus australis, among others) are the easiest to grow indoors. Spring to summer blooms have these trees producing fruit continually (late spring into summer).
Fruit – Mulberry tree fruit (looks like a blackberry but slightly smaller) should be picked as soon as it ripens. This tree’s fruit supply ripens over time rather than all at once.
• Starting your tree from seeds may not be the best way to go
• It can take 4 to 10 years for your tree to mature enough to bear fruit
• However, if you take a cutting from a mature mulberry tree, the cutting will be the same age (genetically) as the parent tree
• Using cuttings, you could have berries growing in the first season.
Tip: For cuttings, remove any berries that start to grow the first season. They take energy away from the production of healthy roots. Then, once planted and established, you can harvest ripened berries.
Soil Requirements – Regular, well-drained potting soil will work just fine for this species. Mulberry trees are slow-growing and thrive in spacious pots.
Watering – Mulberry trees should receive the equivalent of 1 inch of rainwater each week for best growth and fruit production. Fruit may drop prematurely if irrigation is insufficient.
Growing Location – The more direct sunlight your mulberry plant gets, the more robust it will grow and the larger berry crop it will produce.
• Mulberries should get around 6 hours of light daily.
Indoor Fruit Trees
While searching for the perfect indoor fruit tree, there are a few things to keep in mind. Consider the following before getting your tree:
Do I have an area (by a window in my home) that gets at least 6 to 8 hrs of sunlight per day?
If yes, this lit location is where you’ll want to grow your fruit trees.
If not, your indoor fruit trees will grow best in the natural light you can give them compensated with a light fixture containing a full-spectrum bulb. These bulbs produce a balance of cool and warm light, replicating the natural solar spectrum.
Do I have a problem with elevated humidity or mold growth in my home?
If yes to either or both, use a dehumidifier to rein in your home’s humidity. Hire a professional mold removal service to clear mold from your home. This will provide healthier air for its occupants and minimize possible mold growth on your indoor plants and trees.
Note: The ideal relative humidity for health and comfort in your home is somewhere between 30-50%. Growing plants and trees indoors will potentially increase your home’s relative humidity.
Are my other indoor plants disease/pest-free?
Before investing in an indoor fruit tree, verify that your existing indoor plants are disease and pest-free. Some common diseases in houseplants include:
• Powdery Mildew
• Root Rot
• Sooty Mold
Some common houseplant pests include:
• Spider Mites
• Scale Insects
• Fungus Gnats
Tip: Natural pesticides like neem oil or Diatomaceous Earth should be used to eradicate pests and disease from your houseplants before introducing a fruit tree in your home’s ecosystem.
Planting Indoor Fruit Trees Outdoors
When you decide to give your indoor fruit tree the boot, here’s how to plant it outdoors without killing it:
• Acclimate the tree to outside weather by leaving it outside in increasing intervals throughout spring, summer, and mid-fall (bring it in for the winter and plant it outside the following spring).
• Don’t replant it. Leave it in its pot and protect it from severe weather conditions (especially cold weather).
Note: It may not be possible to plant your indoor tree outside. If winter temperatures in your area drop to or below freezing (32°F), your tree may die if left exposed.
Tip: When you have questions about planting your indoor trees outside, or they present seemingly inexplicable signs of poor health, hire an ISA certified arborist to evaluate them and offer professional guidance.
Growing Indoor Fruit Trees
In this article, you discovered growing and care information for five indoor fruit tree species and when you can expect them to bear fruit.
Growing your own fruit trees indoors gives you a cleaner food option when they bear fruit, cleaner ambient air, and a fantastic conversation piece for friends and family.
Being unable to grow your own fruit leaves you limited and subject to consuming foods exposed to harmful chemicals.
Elm Tree Diseases Symptoms and Treatments
Prevent your elm tree from rapid decline and death due to disease. Knowing how to identify and treat elm tree diseases will help you keep them healthy and thriving.
72tree.com assembled the following elm tree disease information, symptoms, and what treatments can help you save them from decline and death.
Elm Tree Disease
The following are some of the more common diseases that affect elm trees (Ulmus) and the treatments used to stop them from killing the trees.
Dutch Elm Disease (DED)
This disease was introduced to the U.S. in the 1930s and has since decimated the American elm (Ulmus americana) population. All native elms and European elms are susceptible, and the disease, 90 years later, still poses a significant threat.
Dutch elm disease is caused by two closely related fungi species (Ophiostoma ulmi and Ophiostoma novo-ulmi), the latter being responsible for most of the disease’s devastation. This fungus species attacks the elm’s vascular system. The tree, in turn, tries to stop the spread of the fungus by producing tyloses (plug-like structures) that block the flow of water and nutrients, contributing to the tree’s demise.
Dutch Elm Disease Symptoms Include:
• Premature leaf drop.
• The first symptom in infected trees usually appears as a small yellow or brown wilting area of foliage referred to as “flagging,” often starting at the edge of the crown.
• Wilting rapidly spreads inward toward the trunk.
• Leaves wilt, yellow, and eventually turn brown.
• Branch death.
• Brown streaking in sapwood (revealed by removing the bark or by cutting a cross-section of the dying branch).
This disease advances very fast. Depending on the health of the tree and time of infection, Dutch elm disease can lead a healthy adult elm tree to its death in a single growing season.
Dutch Elm Disease Treatment:
• Extensive pruning of infected areas.
• Remove severely infected trees.
• Burn or bury all infected wood (kills beetle larvae).
• Sever root graphs (connections) with neighboring trees.
• Preemptively treat uninfected trees with pesticides targeting elm bark beetles.
• Sterilize all pruning and maintenance equipment and materials after contact with infected trees.
• Create bait trees by treating them with cacodylic acid, killing the tree, and luring the fungus carrying beetles (this method suppresses brood production, making the beetle more manageable).
• Apply anti-fungal sprays to areas where infected trees are or have been.
• Plant DED resistant cultivars.
Note: If Dutch elm disease is caught early enough, extensive pruning may save the tree.
Multiple DED-resistant American elms and hybrid elm species are currently available and being developed. Some disease-resistant cultivars include:
• Morton Glossy
• Morton Stalwart
• New Horizon
• Valley Forge
Tip: Hire an ISA certified arborist to accompany or supervise all DED treatment strategies.
Elm Yellows (Formerly Elm Phloem Necrosis)
Elm yellows is an aggressive disease affecting elm trees that is spread via root grafts or leafhoppers. Also known as elm phloem necrosis, the disease is fast-moving, has no cure, and occurs principally in the eastern United States and southern Ontario.
This disease is caused by phytoplasmas that infect the tree’s phloem (inner bark). This infection quickly kills the tree’s phloem, girdling the tree and stopping its flow of water and nutrients.
Elm Yellows Symptoms Include:
• Root debilitation (root hairs die).
• The phytoplasma infection kills the phloem (causing it to change color and take on a wintergreen-like smell.
• Inner bark tissues exhibit butterscotch or light brown discoloration, usually in streaks.
• The crown will turn yellow and droop all at once.
• Leaf drop and death of branches.
Inner bark tissue discoloration may occur in branches, twigs, and the trunk on DED infected trees, where discoloration caused by elm yellows is more commonly found in the trunk.
Elm yellows symptoms can appear any time during the summer but are most common in mid-to late-summer.
Elm Yellows Disease Treatment:
• There is no cure for this disease. Once a tree exhibits signs of elm yellows, it is highly recommended to remove and destroy the tree. Thus, eliminating inoculum sources from the area.
• Thorough root removal after felling an infected tree.
• Control or management of phloem-feeding insects like leafhoppers and spittlebugs.
• Topical application of pesticides to deter insect feeding.
• Apply anti-fungal sprays to areas where infected trees are or have been.
Plant Asian and European elm species in areas where elm yellows is present. These cultivars exhibit resistance to this disease.
Note: Elm yellows does not move into new areas as quickly as Dutch elm disease, providing a larger window for infected tree removal, preventive treatments, and containment.
Laetiporus root rot (formerly Polyporus sulfureus)
As elm trees age, the damage inflicted by butt and root rot fungi can severely compromise their structural stability. Failure eventually occurs during strong winds or severe weather, often without warning, resulting in severe property or physical damage. Root and butt rot can be caused by one of many wood-decaying fungal pathogens, but one of the more commonly occurring in elm trees is Laetiporus sulphureus.
Laetiporus Root Rot Symptoms Include:
• Canopy dieback.
• Stunted shoots.
• Undersized or pale-colored foliage.
• Premature fall color change
• Clusters of yellow to salmon to orange, shelf-like fruiting structures (conks) that turn white with age form in summer or autumn months on the trunk near the ground and fall off during the winter.
• The conk’s underside has tiny pores in which millions of spores are formed.
• New conks form in the following summer and autumn months. The bark where the fruiting structures form will be slightly depressed and often cracked.
Root and butt rot fungi damage may only be exposed when trees suffer windthrow or windsnap during strong winds or severe weather. In some cases, Root and butt rot symptoms are present but provide little to no information on the depth of decay in the roots and lower trunk.
Laetiporus Root Rot Treatment:
• Root rot, in nearly all instances, is a case for immediate tree removal. Especially when fruiting structures are present at the trunk base or on the root flare.
• Hire an ISA certified arborist to evaluate the infected tree and recommend a course of action.
Note: Tree root diseases can be best controlled by preventive measures. When planting new elm trees, select disease-resistant cultivars, only plant in well-drained soil, and avoid overwatering. Chemicals, like chloropicrin or methyl bromide, don’t cure the disease but can reduce the level of the infection. Such fumigants work best when applied in and around the base of an infected tree or in the hole left behind after tree removal.
What is Killing My Elm Trees?
In this article, you discovered information on some of the more deadly elm tree diseases, the signs they display, and how to treat or control them.
Knowing how to recognize and treat elm tree diseases can help you catch and treat a disease early enough to potentially save your tree.
Ignoring the signs of a diseased elm tree can result in catastrophic damages when that tree falls on your home or causes personal injuries.
7 Spring Tree Care Tips
Prevent your trees from dying when they should be coming out of dormancy and thriving. Knowing how to care for your trees in the spring will keep them healthy and thriving.
72tree.com assembled the following tips to help you get your trees ready for the spring growing season.
1. Inspect Your Trees
The beginning of spring is the optimal time to inspect your trees. Your deciduous trees will sill be leafless, and your evergreens, well, should be green. During your inspection, look for the following:
• Cankers (dead sections of bark on branches or tree trunks)
• Oozing sap (trees eject sap to cover and protect wounds)
• Signs of infestation (adult beetle exit holes)
• Signs of disease (blackened and curled twigs)
• Structure (odd, crossed, or unwanted growth patterns)
• Prior pruning wounds (showing decay, fungal growth, excessive sap discharge)
• Suckers (these are offshoots from the trunk, branches, and roots that indicate stress and can be signs of a diseased tree)
Tip: Eliminate doubts and potential misdiagnoses by hiring an ISA certified arborist to check your trees, shrubs, and plants.
2. Prune Dead Wood
Winter is the best time to prune trees. However, the very beginning of spring offers you a visual indication of wood that needs to be removed. Consider the following:
• Prune out dead branches and twigs (use the “scratch test” green/moist beneath the bark – it’s alive. Brown/dry beneath the bark – prune it off.)
• Carefully prune diseased limbs or branches (look for cankers or discolored bark)
• Remove undesired growth (crossed branches and shape altering growth)
• Prune off and sprouting suckers (these anomalous growths take tremendous energy from the rest of the tree)
When your tree starts to leaf out or bloom, cease all pruning activity. The tree’s energy (stored water and nutrients) is being used for growth.
Note: Make your pruning cut 12-inches toward the trunk from where the limb’s diseased portion begins. If the disease is within 36-inches of the trunk, remove the entire limb.
Tip: Sanitize your pruning equipment (including your gloves) before and after working on a diseased tree.
Visit the link for further information and tree pruning techniques.
3. Provide Water for Your Trees
Out of everything a tree requires for healthy growth, water is the most important. Too little, and the tree will suffer hydraulic failure. Too much, and roots may become diseased, quickly killing the tree. Take the following into account:
• Soil around the tree should be well-drained (doesn’t pool up and stay)
• Soil should be consistently moist to the touch (not wet)
• Avoid all overhead watering or practices that splash water (splashing water is a primary vector for disease transmission)
• Water your tree 2 to 3 times per week
• Deep water your tree once weekly (let the water soak to a depth of 12 to 15-inches, this encourages roots to grow deep)
• Use soaker hoses or buckets to irrigate your trees (buckets with holes drilled in the bottom are great for deep waterings)
Tip: Increase watering frequency during times of drought and decrease it in unusually wet times.
4. Mulch Your Trees and Gardens
Applying organic mulch to your trees and garden helps regulate both soil temperature and moisture. Here’s how to do it right:
• Apply a 3 to 6-inch layer of mulch to the entire area within the dripline of your trees (needles, wood chips, or compost)
• Keep mulch pulled back 2 to 3-inches from the tree trunk (this avoids excess moisture and insect trouble around the root flare)
• When the mulch compresses, fluff it up and add more when needed
• Mulch your garden in the same manner
Mulch also serves as an “off-limits” zone to keep lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, and other equipment from encroaching on and damaging your trees.
Note: The drip line is the area beneath the branches, extending to the outer edge of the canopy.
Tip: Organic mulch naturally adds nutrients to your soil as it decomposes while increasing and protecting your soil’s biodiversity.
5. Fertilize Trees and Plants
You may need to feed your trees. Before doing so, you should have your soil properly tested to measure its nutrient and mineral content, as well as its pH. You can send your soil sample to a university extension lab or a professional laboratory. Your soil test results should reveal:
• Cation Exchange Capacity or CEC (measures soil’s ability to retain elements and nutrients with positive charges or “cations”)
• Base Saturation (this is the distribution of cations in the soil)
• Nutrient and mineral levels and deficiencies
• Soil pH (most trees prefer slightly acidic soil or a pH of 6.1 to 6.9)
What increases soil pH? Lime can be added to acid soils to increase soil pH. Lime not only replaces hydrogen ions while increasing soil pH, it also provides calcium and magnesium to the soil.
What decreases soil pH? Aluminum sulfate and sulfur are commonly used to acidify soil. Easily found at garden supply centers, aluminum sulfate changes soil pH instantly as the aluminum dissolves in the soil.
What do the three numbers on fertilizer labels mean? All fertilizer labels have three bold numbers. The 1st is the nitrogen (N) content, the 2nd is the phosphate (P2O5) content, and the 3rd is the potash (K2O) content.
Fertilizers come in a multitude of combinations and types. Most popular are granular, slow-release fertilizers, which should include the components your soil test identified as deficient for optimum tree growth.
Note: Fertilizing without testing may be detrimental to your trees and shrubs. Too much nitrogen, sulfur, or magnesium may stunt tree growth and disrupt the soil’s biodiversity.
Tip: If you aren’t sure about which laboratory to send your soil sample(s), ask your local ISA certified arborist to have the soil tested for you or ask a nearby nursery which one(s) they use.
6. Remove Weeds from Your Landscape
While there are dozens of chemical herbicides promising miraculous weed control results, you run the risk of causing damage to or outright killing your plants, shrubs, and trees. Consider the following removal methods:
Stop digging! – Weed seeds are practically everywhere, but only seeds at the top of soil get the right conditions to trigger germination. Digging and cultivating activities elevate buried weed seeds to the surface. Dig only when needed and immediately fill the disturbed area with plants or mulch.
Mulch – Mulch regulates soil temperature and deprives weeds of sunlight. Organic mulches can host crickets and carabid beetles, which consume weed seeds.
Deadheading – Cutting back the tops of perennial weeds reduces reseeding and forces them to use up their nutrients. No matter how you choose to deadhead your weeds, chopping them down before they seed will help you keep them from spreading.
Water your plants, not your weeds – Deprive weeds of water by placing drip or soaker hoses underneath the mulch. This method efficiently irrigates plants and leaves nearby weeds dry. Water depriving weeds can reduce weed-seed germination by up to 70 percent.
Pull them out – After rain or a deep watering, get your gloves, a kneeling pad, and a weed disposal container. Use a fishtail weeder or an old salad fork to pry up tap-root weeds, like dandelion, thistle, and dock. During dry conditions, weeds sliced off just below the soil line will die. If your weeder is too large or wide, use an old steak knife to sever their roots, then fill in any open spaces left in your mulch.
Note: Keeping your soil’s biodiversity healthy and maintaining a minimum of 3-inches of organic mulch year round will naturally deter weed growth.
7. Plant New Trees
Early spring is a great time to plant a tree. Both evergreens and deciduous trees will be coming into their growing season and have the time to “harden” new growth before the arrival of the next winter season. Observe the following:
• Determine the proper tree species by your USDA hardiness zone map
• Determine which species is the right tree in the right location
• Have the soil tested and adjusted to the species preferences
• Plant your tree
• Care for your tree
Read this beginners guide to tree planting to learn more about the process and considerations.
In this article, you discovered seven pro tips to guide you through your tree preparation for the coming growing season.
With just a little knowledge about tree care and easy-to-follow tips, you can all but guarantee a healthy and robust growing season.
Ignoring the basic necessities of your trees will lead to their disease, infestation, decline, and eventual death. Allowing your trees to die in this manner invites the potential for cataclysmic property damage and personal injury when they fall.
What To Do with a Tree Stump
Prevent losing the opportunity to repurpose your tree stump. Once you have your dying or dead tree removed, leave the stump and transform it into something special.
72tree.com gathered information on what you can do with a tree stump after having the tree removed.
Tree Stump Repurposing and Decor Ideas
When it’s time to cut down your tree, you’ll want to think ahead and determine what to do with the stump. You could have it ground down or removed by the tree service, or you could preserve and repurpose it in your yard. Consider the following:
• How tall of a stump do you want to keep?
• If you are planning to landscape or hardscape, will the stump interfere with or complement your project?
Here are ten ways to creatively repurpose your tree stump:
1 – Plant a Tree in Your Tree Stump
This may seem odd, but when your stump begins to decay in the center, you can plant a sapling or robust outdoors plant right in the stump. Simply cover the roots with nutrient-rich compost and silty soil, water two to three times per week.
This would most likely work best in a stump cut within one to two-feet of the ground. Taller stumps would work for climbing or crawling plants.
2 – Tree Stump Plant Pedestal
Showcase your favorite potted plants by placing them atop the stump. You can also use your stump as a location for your indoor plants to get some sun.
The stump height for this use would depend on your preference. The cut across the stump should be as level as possible for maximum stability.
3 – Tree Stump Statue Pedestal
One way to give your garden statue a more organic look is to use your tree stump as its pedestal. You can complement your statue with surrounding plants or climbing vines.
The stump height for this idea will depend on the statue’s weight and your ability to anchor it to the stump. The statue’s stability will also depend on a level cut across the stump.
4 – Tree Stump Backyard Art
Your tree stump can be used to display letters, trinkets, figurines, or any outdoor collectibles. You could even place some lawn chairs around the stump and serve up some tea.
The stump height for this use will depend on what you intend to display and how within reach you want it.
5 – Tree Stump Carving Art
If you’re into carving, a tree stump will offer you a “blank canvas” and a chance to show off your creative skills.
Stump height for this project depends on what you plan to carve.
6 – Tree Stump Large Shapes
In addition to carving artwork into a tree stump, you can use the whole stump to carve or cut out large objects like a giant Christmas ornament or an oversized mushroom.
Stump height for this project depends on what you plan to create.
7 – Tree Stump Chair
Depending on the stump’s location and diameter, you might benefit from transforming it into a chair.
The stump height for this idea depends on how tall you want the back of the chair to be.
8 – Tree Stump Chopping Block
Both useful and somewhat ironic, you could turn your tree stump into a chopping block, giving you a sturdy surface to split logs for a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
The ideal height for a tree stump used as a chopping block is between twelve and sixteen inches.
9 – Tall Tree Stump Caricatures
Create striking imagery when you have a life-size or larger-than-life caricature carved into your stump, overlooking your yard. If you ever move, cut the stump at ground-level and take your masterpiece with you.
Stump height for this project depends on how tall you want the caricature.
10 – Let Your Stump Decay
If you enjoy seeing the decay process and the different flora and fauna it attracts, your tree stump will be the gift that keeps on giving. You can start or accelerate the decay process by drilling wide holes deep in the stump, filling them with water, and a high-nutrient-content fertilizer.
Stump height for this is at your discretion.
Tree Stump Removal
In some cases, keeping your tree stump after tree removal may not be in your best interest. Take these scenarios, for example:
• If the tree’s roots were buckling your driveway, you may want the stump removed to guarantee root death.
• If your tree is being removed due to severe vascular diseases like oak wilt or anthracnose, keeping the stump may help spread and perpetuate the disease in nearby trees.
• If your tree suffered catastrophic damages from a boring insect infestation, stump removal may be required to prevent subsequent tree infestations.
If you decide to manually remove your tree stump, read How To Remove a Tree Stump Without a Grinder.
Giving a Tree Stump New Life
In this article, you discovered multiple ways to keep and repurpose a tree stump after the tree has been removed.
By keeping your tree stump after tree removal, you gain an opportunity to express your artistic and design-savvy by creating a useful structure or attractive showpiece.
Removing the stump after felling your tree strips you of the opportunity to create something unique with years of durability.
Tree Diseases on Bark
Prevent diseases on your tree’s bark from killing it. Knowing what type of disease is growing on or in your tree will help you take appropriate measures to treat it.
72tree.com gathered information on diseases that affect or appear on tree bark, how severe they are, and what actions are needed to prevent the disease from spreading.
Tree Bark Diseases
Tree bark completely covers a tree’s trunk, branches, stems, and twigs. It could be seen as a protective skin that repels insect infestations, shields against pathogens, and resists physical damage. Frequently, however, a stressed tree will likely develop one of the following:
Cankers on Trees
Cankers are dead areas of bark on a tree’s trunk or branch. Multiple factors can cause bark death, like damage caused by an impact, bacteria, or fungi. Pathogens such as bacteria or fungi are usually unable to penetrate healthy bark, but if the tree is stressed or the bark is damaged, infection is more likely. Consider the following types of cankers:
Wound Canker – These cankers, sometimes referred to as annual cankers, are most common at or near the base of a tree. They are typically caused by a lawnmower, vehicle, and/or maintenance equipment strikes or repeated abrasion.
Cankers resulting from impact wounds are severe threats that need to be prevented. Allowing conditions for these wounds to persist can result in the girdling and death of the tree.
Prevention: Create a safety zone using organic mulch or gravel around the tree.
Tip: Existing wounds should be carefully trimmed (without widening or deepening the wound), so the tree can properly seal the wound. Point out these wounds/repairs to your tree professional.
Perennial Canker or Cytospora Canker (Target-Shaped) – This canker is one of the more common diseases of shade and fruit trees. It is caused by one of several Cytospora fungi (Nectria, Strumella, Eutypella, etc.) and attacks multiple hosts, including:
• Apple (Malus domestica)
• Apricot (Prunus armeniaca)
• Ash (Fraxinus)
• Aspen (Populus tremuloides)
• Birch (Betula)
• Beeches (Fagus)
• Cherry (Prunus avium)
• Elm (Ulmus)
• Hickories (Carya)
• Maples (Acer)
• Peach (Prunus persica)
• Poplars (Populus)
• Walnuts (Juglans)
• Willow (Salix)
Cytospora infections can occur via bark wounds, at junctions of dead and live branches, or at poorly cut pruning wounds. The fungi slowly grow through bark during the tree’s dormancy (late fall and winter). Then, in the growing season, the host trees respond by compartmentalizing the affected areas. This alternating growth of the fungus and the tree forms a distinct elongated, target-like appearance.
Identification: These cankers will appear sunken on branches or trunks and present the following:
• Colors vary from off-brown to gray shades
• Black fungal structures (pycnidia) embedded in small bumps around the wound
• Brownish to orangish masses of spores being extruded from pycnidia
• Oozing sap and/or a wet appearance
Tip: These cankers slowly expand over time and can eventually girdle the branch or the whole tree (when located on the trunk). Ask a professional tree service to evaluate your tree and recommend a course of action.
Diffuse Canker – With these highly lethal cankers, necrosis spreads so quickly that the host can’t compartmentalize the area fast enough to stop its progression. The differences between these and other cankers are:
• No callus rings are formed, the affected area appears dark, sunken, and often moist
• Diffuse cankers continue expanding during the growing season
• When these cankers occur on a tree’s trunk, the tree will likely die
Some of the pathogens responsible for diffuse cankers are:
• Phytophthora dieback
• Cytospora canker
• Botryosphaeria canker
• Hypoxylon canker
• Chestnut blight
Identification: Diffuse cankers appear as sunken, dark areas similar to other cankers, but with no callus rings. It is common to see sap oozing from these cankers.
Note: Diffuse cankers move fast enough to completely girdle and kill their hosts in a single growing season.
Managing Pathogen-Driven Canker Diseases – As with nearly all tree problems, prevention is easier and less costly than treatment. Consider the following:
• Properly prune your tree (only in dry weather)
• Sanitize all pruning equipment with 10% bleach or 70% alcohol before and after each tree
• Remove and destroy any dead or infected material
• Prevent tree wounds (mechanical and environmental)
• Soil should be well-drained
• Improve tree health (water, fertilize, prune, and mulch)
• Apply a preventative chemical treatment to un-infected trees
Tip: Have your trees inspected annually by a professional tree service. Besides early detection of disease, you may identify other stressors that increase your tree’s susceptibility to developing cankers.
Mushrooms on Tree Bark
When you see mushrooms growing on a tree, be concerned. Mushrooms are the fruiting structures of fungi. For them to appear, the fungi must be well-developed and have caused extensive decay within the tree. Consider the following:
Mushrooms on a Tree Branch – Carefully prune the branch from the tree and destroy (burn) it. Avoid spreading pathogens from one tree to the next by sanitizing your equipment with 10% bleach or 70% alcohol before and after working on infected trees.
After removing all visibly affected limbs or branches, monitor your tree over the next growing season and have it thoroughly inspected for any other potential issues (decay-causing fungi can quickly spread throughout a tree).
Mushrooms on a Tree Trunk – Call a professional tree service as quickly as possible. Your tree’s trunk is likely suffering from extensive internal decay and needs removal.
Mushrooms on a Tree’s Root Flare – Again, this is an urgent scenario. When mushrooms grow from the root flare, there is likely significant decay within the tree’s roots, potentially destabilizing the tree when winds and storms come through. The tree will likely require emergency removal.
Treatment: When dealing with mushrooms on your tree, you will be limited to removing affected limbs and branches. For this, prevention is easier and less costly than treatment. Consider the following:
• Properly prune your tree (3 cut method)
• Sanitize all pruning equipment with 10% bleach or 70% alcohol before and after each tree
• Remove and destroy (burn) any dead or infected material
• Prevent mechanical tree wounds
• Prepare your trees for severe weather events
• Soil should be well-drained to avoid root rot
• Improve tree health (water, fertilize, prune, and mulch)
• Apply a preventative chemical treatment to un-infected trees
Tip: Avoid disturbing these mushrooms. Trying to remove them can release billions of microscopic spores into the air, potentially spreading the disease to other trees, shrubs, and plants.
In this article, you discovered information about the diseases that affect and appear on tree bark, the damage they cause, and how to prevent them.
By taking swift action to treat or remove a diseased tree, you are protecting your property and surrounding trees.
When you ignore diseases appearing on tree bark, you risk the sudden death or destabilization of the tree and the expensive damages it can cause when it falls.
Tree Root Rot Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Don’t let root rot cause your trees to suddenly decline, die, and fall. Knowing how to identify root rot symptoms will help you save your tree or take action before it causes catastrophic property damages.
72tree.com gathered information on the causes of root rot in trees, how to recognize its symptoms, and what treatments you can use to stop or prevent it.
Tree Root Rot Causes
When root rot attacks a tree, the flow of water and nutrients from the roots to the crown is either impeded, or the invading pathogen is carried throughout the tree, killing its host. The following are several of those pathogens:
Rhizoctonia (this fungal pathogen adversely affects younger hosts, older trees are found to be more resistant)
Pythium (this fungus of the Pythiaceae family has 140 known species, most of which are now classified as parasites)
Rhododendron Root Rot (Phytophthora cactorum and Phytophthora cinnamomi were first thought to only survive in subtropical countries but is now known to thrive in cooler countries)
Fusarium (found worldwide, some of this pathogen’s species can adversely affect humans when infected crops are consumed)
Rosellinia necatrix (Dematophora necatrix, Hypoxylon necatrix, and Pleurographium necator, known as one of the most devastating plant fungal diseases, affecting several fruit tree and crop species)
Honey Fungi, Shoestring Root Rot, or Openky (Armillaria frequently occurs in hardwoods and pines)
Texas Root Rot (Phymatotrichopsis, Phymatotrichum, Cotton, or Ozonium root rot occurs more frequently in Mexico and the southwestern United States, causing sudden wilt and death)
Note: Fungal spores naturally occur and lie dormant in soil. These spores only begin reproducing when conditions support it. Such conditions include compacted soil, poorly-drained soil, and overwatering. As the fungi reproduce, tree roots provide a prime source of nutrients, allowing them to spread quickly.
Symptoms of Tree Root Rot
Most visible symptoms of root rot strikingly resemble the signs of an advanced pest infestation, making an accurate diagnosis more difficult. The most common, above ground, symptoms of root rot include:
• Gradual or sudden decline without a detectible reason
• Severely stunted or poor growth patterns
• Smaller, chlorotic leaves or needles (new growth)
• Wilted, yellowed, or browned leaves or needles
• Severe canopy thinning
• Stress crops (abnormally large amount of fruit/seeds)
• Fungal fruiting structures (mushrooms) found on the root flare or growing from surface roots
• Once in the xylem and phloem (cambium), cankers or sunken dead areas may appear on branches or the trunk of the host
A more accurate way to diagnose root rot is to dig to the roots to see if decay is present. Care should be taken when exposing roots to avoid inflicting further harm to the tree.
Note: Anthracnose is another group of fungal pathogens that cause similar above-ground tree damage but are not typically associated with root rot. You can find further information about anthracnose at 72tree.com/symptoms-of-anthracnose/
Tip: Hire an ISA certified arborist to inspect and accurately diagnose the cause(s) of the symptoms you have identified.
Tree Root Rot Treatment
Trees can sometimes be saved early on by pruning out infected roots. If a tree is in an advanced state of decline, the recommended way to control root rot diseases from spreading is to entirely remove it.
Chemical treatments that include propiconazole, chloropicrin, fosetyl-aluminum, or methyl bromide, among others, won’t completely cure or remove the disease but can reduce the infection level. These treatments are applied in and around the root plate of infected trees and especially in holes left after infected trees, and their stumps have been removed.
Note: The application of chemical treatments on your trees (for any reason) should be performed as directed on the product labeling and closely monitored by a certified arborist.
Root Rot Prevention for Trees
Trees have adapted over millennia to protect themselves against infection and illness. They are efficient at protecting themselves when healthy, and you can further assist them in resisting root rot by:
• Avoiding overwatering
• Ensuring proper water drainage by amending/enriching soil structure
• Preventing soil compaction on or around the root plate
• Protecting surface roots and trunks from mechanical and/or equipment damage
• Immediately addressing storm damage and/or soil erosion
• Removing unsalvageable trees from your property
• Planting disease-resistant species
Tip: You can also help trees fight fungal attacks by promoting their health. These are some of the things you can do to improve their health:
• Seasonal pruning
• Seasonally applying and refreshing organic mulch
• Deep watering (especially during drought conditions)
• Pre-growing season fertilization
• Annual tree inspections by a certified arborist
Note: The importance of annual tree inspections cannot be overstated. The ability to detect problems in their beginning stages offers more options to eliminate existing problems and take measures to prevent issues throughout the tree’s growing season.
Tree Root Rot
In this article, you discovered valuable information about the causes of tree root rot, recognizing its symptoms, and how to treat it or prevent it.
Taking swift action when root rot is suspected in your trees will increase your chances of saving them and preventing further infection.
Ignoring the signs of root rot will render your tree unsalvageable, invite other disease and infestation, and potentially cause catastrophic property damage when your tree destabilizes and falls.
Kudzu Vines Killing Trees
Keep your trees from being engulfed and killed by invasive kudzu vines. Knowing how to stop and control kudzu vines will help you save your trees, shrubs, and plants.
72tree.com assembled the following information about kudzu vines to help you understand their destructive nature and keep them from causing catastrophic damages to your trees.
Kudzu Vines and Trees
Kudzu vines can trail or climb. When they climb trees, they practically glue themselves to the bark of their host as they climb. Once breaching the canopy, the vine spreads rapidly, causing extreme shading of the tree.
If the affected tree doesn’t decline from girdling, it will certainly die once the vine completely overshadows the canopy unless immediate action is taken.
How To Safely Remove Kudzu from a Tree – The following steps will help you stop kudzu vines from killing your trees.
• Locate and cut the vine’s lower-most growth at the base of the tree
• Apply a 50% solution of triclopyr to the vine’s stumps to kill the roots
• Let the vine die on the tree. Pulling it off may cause severe bark damage.
Tip: Persistent weeding, mowing, and/or grazing (especially during the growing season) will deter the vine from reestablishing itself.
Kudzu Invasive Species
Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata) vines are fast-growing, woody, hairy, trailing, or climbing vines that can grow to lengths of 100 feet with a massive taproot. The vine has large compound leaves with three broad leaflets. The plant bears long flower clusters of late-blooming reddish to purple flowers and brown, hairy, flattened seed pods.
Introduction to the US – Kudzu, native to Asia, was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s as a means of erosion control, livestock forage, and ornamental purposes (introduction occurred in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition where it was exhibited as an ornamental vine).
Plant Reproduction – Kudzu’s spread is primarily vegetative by taking root at nodes where the vines contact soil and subsequently form entirely new plants. The plant can also spread by seed, but few viable seeds are found in each pod.
Plant Growth and Habitat – Pueraria montana grows well in multiple habitats and soil types. Its most aggressive growth rate occurs where winters are mild, average summer temperatures are above 80°F, and annual rainfall reaches or surpasses 40 inches. However, the plant’s robust root system helps it survive summer or extended drought conditions. In areas where the plant successfully establishes itself, it can be found in abundance along roadsides, old/abandoned fields, forest edges, and other sunny areas.
Since its introduction, kudzu has spread fervently. It is currently present from New York to Florida and from nearly the entire eastern seaboard as far west as Arizona (Oregon and Washington have also reported confined cases of the species).
USDA Classification – In 1953, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) removed this plant species from its list of allowable cover plants. Then in 1970, kudzu was listed as a common weed of the South.
Note: By growing up to 12 inches per day, this invasive species can out-compete and kill everything from grasses to mature trees, crowding and shading them.
Kudzu Control and Prevention
Effective control methods of Pueraria montana depend on the size and location of the infestation. Consider the following:
Small or Poorly-Established Patches – These can usually be eliminated by repeated weeding, mowing, and/or grazing during the growing season.
Large or Well-Established Infestations – While weeding, mowing, and/or grazing effectively slow this type of infestation, it will typically not kill the roots of the larger plants.
These infestations can also be controlled with a foliar solution of 2% to 3% glyphosate or triclopyr plus a 0.5% non-ionic surfactant to thoroughly wet all the leaves.
After surface vegetation is controlled, you can dig and cut into the central root system and apply a 50% solution of glyphosate or triclopyr to the wounded roots.
When an infestation encroaches on desired vegetation, avoid using chemical control methods and manually remove the plant(s).
Tip: All treatments should be monitored for multiple growing seasons to prevent re-sprouting.
Advisory: When using any herbicide or pesticide, follow all directions/instructions on the label. “The label is the law!”
Kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata)
In this article, you discovered essential information about kudzu vines, how to stop them from killing your trees, and how to eliminate them altogether.
By taking swift action to control this highly invasive plant species, you can prevent your trees and landscape from being over-grown and snuffed out.
When you ignore a kudzu infestation, you are potentially signing a death warrant for all vegetation in its path, ranging from grasses to mature, healthy trees.
Why Do Trees Die
Prevent the environment, disease, and insect activity from killing your trees. Knowing why trees die will help you take notice and intervene on threats to your tree’s life.
72tree.com assembled the following information about the many factors that lead to the death of trees, the signs and symptoms of a dying tree, and what to do about it.
1. Tree Diseases
Tree diseases can wreak havoc on your trees, and in some instances, kill them in a single growing season. The following are some of the more common diseases that infect trees:
• Anthracnose (Glomerella cingulata)
• Fire Blight (Erwinia amylovora)
• Diplodia Tip Blight (Sphaeropsis sapinea)
• Oak Wilt (Ceratocystis fagacearum)
• Dutch Elm Disease (Ophiostoma ulmi)
• Canker Diseases (caused by multiple fungal pathogens)
Signs and Symptoms – Trees infected with different diseases will display different symptoms. However, all should be treated with haste to prevent the decline and death of the infected tree. The following symptoms can help you diagnose the disease you are dealing with
• Anthracnose – Sunken spots or lesions of various colors in foliage, stems, fruit, and/or flowers. Some infections lead to cankers on twigs, branches, and trunk.
Treatment – If this disease is caught early enough, extensive pruning may halt its progression, allowing the tree to compartmentalize affected areas.
Read more about anthracnose at 72tree.com/symptoms-of-anthracnose/
• Fire Blight – Sudden brownish-black withering and death of blossoms, leaves, twigs, fruit spurs, and branches are signs of this disease. Heavily affected trees will appear scorched by fire and may die altogether.
Treatment – Extensive pruning of affected areas and copper fungicides. However, there is no cure for fire blight. Removal of the tree should be considered before the pathogen spreads to neighboring trees and shrubs.
Further reading on fire blight can be found at 72tree.com/preventing-fire-blight-tree-disease/
• Diplodia Tip Blight – This disease infects conifers, first killing needles at the tips of branches. Symptoms typically appear on the lower half of the tree, progressing upwards. When new needles begin expanding, they end up stunted, turn yellow, then tan or brown.
Treatment – This pathogen responds to fungicide treatments. Treatment should start at bud break in the spring for effective control. Pruning out damaged areas, and cones should also be removed, as they hold fungal spores.
This blight can be controlled, but not cured. As with any needle blight disease, the objective of spraying the tree is to break the cycle of infection in emerging needles. Many seasons of treatments are needed before noticeable results are achieved.
• Oak Wilt – This disease infects oak trees. It can be identified as mature foliage develops a dark green water-soaked appearance, or may turn pale green or bronze, starting at the leaf margins and progressing toward the center of the leaf. This usually begins on a single branch and quickly spreads throughout the entire crown. Red oaks can die within 4 to 6 weeks after symptoms appear.
Treatment – Once an oak tree is infected with oak wilt, there is no known treatment capable of ridding the tree of the disease. Infected trees should be professionally removed.
Note: Healthy oaks can be injected with a fungicide known as Propiconazole to suppress oak wilt disease. Since Oak Wilt is spread by root grafts and insect carriers, treat those trees close to infected ones to slow the disease’s spread.
For more oak wilt information, visit 72tree.com/oak-wilt-identification-treatment-prevention/
• Dutch Elm Disease (DED) – DED is a vascular wilt disease in trees. External symptoms of infection are yellowing and wilting of leaves on individual branches. These leaves then turn brown and curl up as the branch dies, foliage eventually may drop off.
Treatment – Much like oak wilt, Dutch Elm Disease must be treated proactively before the disease is present in the tree. This disease spreads so quickly that diseased trees may not respond to any form of treatment.
Note: Healthy elms can be professionally treated in the same manner as healthy oaks with the Propiconazole fungicide.
• Canker Diseases – Symptoms may include round-to-irregular sunken, swollen, flattened, cracked, discolored, or dead areas (appearing as bruises or open wounds) on tree stems, twigs, limbs, or trunk.
Treatment – There is no cure for canker diseases on fruit and shade trees, but the disease’s spread can be controlled by pruning out infected areas. In late winter or early spring, carefully remove and destroy infected branches 4 inches below the canker where the tree is releasing amber color sap. If the canker is located on the trunk, request professional help to treat the infected area or remove the tree.
When treating, pruning, or interacting with diseased trees, you can reduce the chances of spreading the disease by:
• Sanitizing all equipment, including gloves, rakes, saws, etc. before and after use
• Destroying (burning) dropped or pruned foliage, twigs, and limbs (never add infected material to compost piles)
• Never spraying infected trees with overhead watering or irrigation
When in doubt, don’t take the chance of making a bad tree situation worse. Reach out to an ISA certified arborist for professional help. Read more about tree fungi control and prevention at 72tree.com/how-to-get-rid-of-tree-fungi/
2. Weather-Related Tree Damage
Trees have spent millennia adapting to their climate and region. That said, severe weather can still inflict significant and sometimes lethal damages to a tree. For example:
Bark Stripping – During catastrophic weather events like tornadoes and hurricanes, bark can be stripped from a side of or from the entire tree, effectively killing it.
Impact Damage – Also, during severe weather events, yard ornaments, statues, bicycles, and even vehicles can be carried by wind or floodwater, impacting and severely damaging the tree’s bark. If enough bark is damaged or stripped from the tree, it will be girdled and quickly die.
Drought – When the weather is dry, trees still need water. Most tree roots live within the first 30-inches of soil, and without water for prolonged periods, a tree can suffer hydraulic failure and die. Proper mulching and increased watering patterns can prevent this peril.
Severe or Repeated Flooding – In contrast to drought, this can lead to the destabilization of a tree’s root plate. When this condition occurs, the tree may develop a lean or suffer windthrow from the slightest wind.
Windthrow – This condition occurs when trees are toppled by wind. When windthrow occurs, a tree is uprooted as it is blown over.
Windsnap – This condition also occurs when trees are toppled by wind. When windsnap occurs, a tree is broken off at the trunk as it is blown down. Proper seasonal pruning activities and crown thinning can significantly reduce the potential for windthrow or windsnap.
For further reading and preventative measures on windthrow and windsnap, read 72tree.com/blowndown-windthrow-windsnap/
3. Boring Insect Infestations
When it comes to tree killers, boring insects are perhaps the most prolific and persistent. Larvae feed in galleries beneath the bark, consuming the tree’s cambium layer, while adults consume the host’s foliage. Aerial views of forested land demonstrate (in large swaths) the devastation these insects are capable of. A boring insect infestation can be identified as follows:
• Adults found in traps (visual confirmation)
• Partially consumed foliage (Leaf notches)
• Chlorosis of foliage in sections of the crown
• Extreme dieback of foliage and stems
• Frass (sawdust) found on the bark from burrowing activities
• Exit holes in tree bark
• Bulging or vertical splits in the bark (over larval galleries)
• Suckers and water sprouts growing in the crown, on the trunk, and/or from the roots
• Woodpecker damage (woodpeckers hunt beetle larvae)
• Squirrel activity (some squirrel species feed on beetle larvae)
As larvae feed season after season, they channel through their host’s cambium layer in a zigzag or ribbon pattern (interrupting the flow of water and nutrients. This feeding ultimately leads to a partial or total girdling of the host, resulting in hydraulic failure and death.
Boring Insect Control and Prevention – Due to the larvae’s occult feeding activities, preventing a wood-boring insect infestation is not always possible. However, these practices will help reduce the potential of an infestation:
• Plant well-adapted species of trees not commonly attacked by wood borers in your region.
• Choose and prepare a suitable planting site to avoid tree stress like freeze damage, sunscald, windburn, and other natural stressors.
• Promote your tree’s health with proper watering, mulching, and fertilization methods.
• Use proper seasonal pruning practices (winter/dormant season).
• Avoid mechanical injury to tree trunks from lawnmowers and/or construction.
If you detect a wood-boring insect infestation, contact an ISA certified arborist to not only confirm the infestation but to mobilize local and regional forestry support if needed. Such infestations can cause catastrophic damages in very little time.
Note: In the absence of stressed or ailing trees, boring insects will attack healthy specimens.
Read more exciting literature about boring insects by visiting 72tree.com/metallic-wood-boring-beetles/
4. Lifespan of Trees
While rare, a tree can die of “old age.” However, what is considered old age for one species may be merely infancy for another. Consider the following species and their average lifespan:
• Willow (Salix) 30 years
• Birch (Betula) 40 – 50 years
• Poplar (Populus) 50 years
• Magnolia (Magnolia) 80 – 120 years
• Maple (Acer) 100 – 300 years
• Oak (Quercus) 100 – 300 years
• Ash (Fraxinus) 120 – 300 years
• Aspen (Populus tremuloides) 150 – 200 years
• Walnut (Juglans) 150 to 250 years
• Fig (Ficus carica) 200 years
• Spruce (Picea) 200 years
• Beech (Fagus) 300 – 400 years
• Elm (Ulmus) 300 years
• Pecan (Carya illinoinensis) 300 years
• Pistachio (Pistacia vera) 300 years
• Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) 500 – 2,000 years
• Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) 600 years
• Bristlecone (Balfourianae) 5,000+ years
Signs and Symptoms – Trees in decline due to age may present many symptoms, including the following:
• Chlorosis (loss of color in foliage)
• Extreme dieback (multiple dead branches)
• Cladoptosis (randomly falling branches)
• Sudden Death (the tree just dies)
If you have a tree that is nearing or surpassing its lifespan and is in decline, there is little to nothing you can do to save it. When in these circumstances, call on an ISA certified arborist’s expertise to evaluate the tree and recommend a course of action.
Note: While most tree species can outlive a human being, the vast majority of trees succumb to weather, biological, or human interference factors long before reaching their full lifespan.
Saving Dying Trees
In this article, you discovered information about the lifespan of trees, diseases, weather, and insects that are commonly responsible for why trees die.
By taking preventative measures to halt the spread of disease and insect infestations, you are helping your tree to live up to or surpass its lifespan.
When you ignore the warning signs of a dying or sick tree, you risk suffering grave consequences when that tree dies and falls on your property.