Diseases & Pests

What To Do When Your Tree Is Dying

Have you ever heard of the children’s book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? It’s a story about a tree that gives a boy everything it has, such as apples, wood and shade, to make him happy throughout his life.

Every tree is a giving tree, isn’t it? Trees are wind obstructors, fresh air makers, pollutant reducers, shade producers, and block us from the cold. They entertain kids for hours with tree houses and swings. Trees let us relax with a hammock and a good book. One of the best parts about trees is they only require a little maintenance and care in return.

But what happens when your tree looks a little down in the dumps? An undiagnosed sick tree could kill your other surrounding trees, leaving your yard treeless. It could also fall, which can harm you and your property. Therefore, it is crucial to keep an eye on your tree to be aware of any symptoms that point to it being unhealthy. Here’s some information to help you know what to do when your tree is dying.

Symptoms of a Sick or Dying Tree

There are several common symptoms of sickness that you can watch out for to determine if your tree needs help. Then, it’s all a matter of diagnosing and taking action! A few common warning signs are listed below:

  • Poor structure
    Sometimes trees can lean more to one side, or have an odd shape that is caused by an unnatural growth pattern. Severe storms and poor pruning are usually to blame for this; rectify this issue soon to prevent the tree from falling!
  • Decay
    This one can be hard to spot, as decay usually affect the inside of the tree first. Visible symptoms include: mushroom-like spores, an expanded base, dead branches, and soft, breakable wood.
  • Weak unions or joints
    These are also an indicator that your tree is sickly. If your tree’s branches don’t look very attached to the tree, there is a problem. This is caused by branches growing close together with bark in between. Weak branches mean they could fall at any time.
  • Cracks
    Cracks in your tree are tricky to diagnose because some are normal and some are not. Overall, the cracks don’t necessarily hurt the tree unless they become too deep and affect the tree’s infrastructure and branches, or if they host detrimental pests.
  • Cankers
    Cankers are areas of dead bark on your tree. A canker is similar to a human canker sore; both are painful sores from a disease caused by stress. A tree canker is caused by bacteria/fungi that infect a tree through an open wound. Once it’s inside, it attacks the tree and causes it stress, and in turn, a canker. Fortunately, these can usually be pruned off the tree.
  • Deadwood
    The last symptom of a sick or dying tree is deadwood. Deadwood is exactly what it sounds like; wood that is dead. The branches are usually easy to break and are dry.

All of these symptoms are warnings that your tree’s health is threatened. The faster you identify these indications, the faster your tree can get back to normal.

Disease Prevention

So now that you’re familiar with some of the common illnesses and symptoms, what about actually saving the tree? Prevention is key.

There are certain things you can do to boost your tree’s health so it won’t get sick in the first place.

  • Avoid injuring your tree while doing any yard work. Wounds on trees are like open cuts to humans; they can easily catch an infection.
  • Watch out for any exposed roots, too, since root rot can be lethal.
  • Take care of your tree’s basic needs. If you have mulch around your tree, leave some room around it so it can breathe and absorb things.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. If you have been in a drought, your trees will need some watering.
  • Properly prune your tree. A pruned tree is a happy and healthy tree because it allows for proper growth and a strong immune system.

Arborists Are Your Friend

If prevention fails and your tree becomes sick, the best thing to do is to consult your local tree doctor, a.k.a., an arborist. They are certified experts that promote tree growth.

What an arborist can help you with:

  • Identify at-risk trees
  • Know the laws about chemicals and deforestation
  • Properly spray trees with chemicals
  • Alert you about any spreading diseases
  • Brace your trees for support
  • Recommend trees that would work well with your yard
  • Identify valuable trees you can sell
  • Give you pruning tips
  • Remove your tree
  • Climb up high
  • Use heavy equipment

An arborist will do all of the dangerous things for you to keep you and your home safe. So no rickety ladders for you! If there is any way to save your tree, an arborist will know and will be able to help. If you have any questions about your trees or see any of the symptoms listed above, give back to your tree and call an arborist in your neighborhood today.

About the Author

Chelsea HennenChelsea Hennen is an avid writer and researcher of tree care and landscaping. She has written informational articles and guest blog posts for a variety of industries, including legal guidance, home improvement and corporate planning. She is a guest writer for Precision Landscape and Tree, a company that serves the Twin Cities metro area with over 30 years of experience in tree care, timber management, and land removal.

16 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Tree Is Dying

  • We just moved into a new home, and I noticed that there was a cluster of trees not too far from my back porch. It doesn’t look like the previous owners took tree care seriously. As I was reading your article, you state that an undiagnosed sick tree can kill the other trees in your surrounding area. I’m going to look into getting a professional tree service come look at the trees in my yard.

  • Thank you so much for your tips to avoid cuts on the trees and properly prune trees to keep your tree from becoming unhealthy. I moved into a new home about a month ago, and I have noticed that the trees near my home are quite old and sickly looking. I wonder if they need to be removed so they don’t damage my house. I will have to look for professionals who could help me.

  • Decay is a dead give-away that your tree is currently dying. When you see decay that means that mold/fungus is currently eating away at the bacteria that is thriving on your dying tree. When you see fungus, pests and bugs around your tree, you should be alarmed and call your local arborist for tree care.

  • I am thankful that you said to look for your tree leaning more to one side or mushroom spores to see if it’s in poor health. I have a very old orange tree in my backyard that I think might be dying. I’ll look for these signs and find a tree removal service to hire once I do.

  • I was not aware that having a tree with cracks will be a sign that you need to call a professional to help you. My husband noticed that a tree in our backyard is leaning towards our house, and we are looking for advice about what to do. I will let him know about the benefits of hiring a tree removal company to help us.

  • Thank you for mentioning how a tree’s wood will be easier to break if it is starting to decay. I have recently noticed that some of the branches on my pine tree have started to fall onto my neighbor’s property, and I would like to prevent my tree from damaging his nearby shed. Maybe I should have it removed to prevent my tree from causing any damage.

  • Thanks for explaining that a sick tree will develop dead wood that’ll be easy to break or crack. I was surprised that one of the branches in my oak tree started cracking when my niece was playing and hanging off of it over the weekend. Maybe I’ll have a tree company come take a look and see if it may need to be removed.

  • I didn’t know that your tree may start to lean in a certain direction if it has been exposed to harsh weather conditions. Ever since it started raining in my area, I have noticed that my maple tree has started to lean toward a nearby sidewalk and might fall over during an incoming windstorm this weekend. Maybe I should find a tree service that can remove it in order to keep people nearby safe.

  • My aunt has been thinking about getting rid of her elm trees because they are starting to look sickly. She would really like to get a professional to take a look at it, and he wants to try and fix it. I’ll b sure to tell her about how she should prune her tree, and make sure that their needs are taken care of with the right mulch.

  • Thanks for telling me that leaning trees to one side might be a sign that it is already dying. We live in an area where storms often hit, so I’m afraid that this can be dangerous to our property. Maybe it would be better if we’ll hire tree removal services as early as now to prevent future accidents.

  • Thank you for mentioning how your tree may be dying if you notice that the presence of mushrooms. My wife and I have noticed that our dog has started to sniff the base of our oak tree ever since mushrooms started growing inside of its cracks, and we’re worried that the tree may tip over during an incoming rainstorm this weekend. We’ll find someone that can get rid of our decaying tree before it becomes a problem.

  • Kennedy Longsky

    I just stumbled across your article “What to do when Your Tree Is Dying” and I wanted to say thanks for the awesome posts! It’s always great to get advice from other people in the industry.

    As a registered arborist, my business is all about helping people care for their trees so they don’t have any major problems down the road. The article you wrote has some really good information that will help homeowners keep an eye on their tree’s health and avoid any potential accidents.


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