Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide our best answers to those inquiries. We’ve combined the 10 most commonly asked questions regarding problems with trees in this article, summarizing an answer for each. Does one of your trees have a problem? You’ll likely find a solution here.
Generally, the best time to transplant deciduous trees is during the tree’s period of dormancy. Early spring is often an excellent time with warmer weather right around the corner. Act before the tree begins leafing out. Fall can also be a good choice. If your region expects an extended period of light to moderate rain, the irrigation will keep the transplanted tree’s roots happy. If you transplant in autumn, do it just after the leaves begin turning fall colors. Be sure the tree is not water stressed at the time of transplant. Water it regularly during the week or two before the move.
If you see your tree losing bark, it can mean any of a number of different things. Some trees lose bark naturally, like birch and silver maple. And some varieties are even celebrated for their exfoliating bark that peels back to reveal inner bark of a different color. However, a tree shedding bark can also indicate a problem with the tree. It can indicate that a fungus or bacteria is attacking the tree. It may also be caused by frost damage brought on by cold weather or sunscald from hot, direct sunlight.
If you think the tree is dying, the odds are that it is. Signs that a tree is dying range from dying leaves to a rotting trunk. If, in summer, the tree has no leaves at all or you notice a significant reduction in the number of leaves, it may be dying. Trees need leaves for photosynthesis. If the tree’s bark is falling off the trunk in chunks, something is seriously and perhaps fatally wrong with it. If limbs are dying or the trunk looks spongy or brittle, the tree may be dying.
What you are seeing is gummosis, a gum or sap that oozes from the tree in response to an injury. The injury can be one inflicted by insect pests. Borers, aphids and scale are among the insects that can would the tree in this way. Another cause for gummosis is mechanical injury. Pruning wounds can cause this, but weed whacking is another likely suspect in mechanical damage. It only takes an inattentive moment to wound a tree as you are taking out weeds nearly. Virus or disease can also enter through those wounds, like the airborne fungus that causes Cytospora canker disease.
You have lots of options when it comes to methods to remove a tree stump. Some people choose chemical control for tree stump removal. If you have experience, you can use potassium nitrate, sulphuric acid, and nitric acid. Boring holes in the stump and pouring in boiling water can also do the job. You can get rid of the tree stump by helping it rot. Keep the stump moist, then add nitrogen fertilizer to encourage fungi. Digging out stumps is usually done by professionals but may be the fastest way to get rid of the problem.
A tree sucker saps energy from the healthy branches growing on the tree. You can sometimes dig out suckers and plant them, but the result is often disappointing. It’s easy to remove suckers with a sharp, sterilized pair of pruning shears. Clip out tree suckers in the same way you prune trees. Make a clean cut, removing the plant sucker as close to the tree as possible. However, leave the collar (where the tree sucker meets the tree) to help speed the wound recovery. Prune out tree suckers as soon as you see them to reduce stress on your tree.
If your tree is deciduous and it is autumn, no need to panic about leaves wafting to the earth. And even during the growing season, a tree can lose a few leaves. But if you have a number of trees that are losing a noteworthy number of leaves during the growing season, your trees may have a fungus problem. Treat the trees with a fungicide, like neem oil or copper, to kill the fungus. It is likely that once the fungus is gone, the defoliating leaves will cease. The leaves will grow back the following year if not this one.
Suckers grow near the base of a tree, and it’s entirely possible to grow a new tree from a sucker. Dig around the sucker to uncover its base. If the sucker has its own root system, dig it out, roots and all, cutting it off the parent plant. Replant the sucker in a container with potting soil and provide the young plant with regular water. Once it begins to grow, you can plant it outside. If the sucker doesn’t have its own root system, scrape a little bark away from below the soil line on the sucker and then cover it back up with soil. Keep checking back until you see roots develop.
Think of tree bark as the skin of the tree. When tree bark is scratched or damaged, the tender phloem layer below is also damaged and the tree may have trouble getting nutrients. If the bark damage extends more than 25% of the circumference of the tree, you need to pay attention. Don’t use a sealant. Instead, reattach bark with duct tape. Alternatively, remove jagged wood that will prevent the wound from healing. Clean cut the wound with a sharp, sterilized knife to help the tree to heal more quickly.
Lichens do not harm the tree. They are a unique organism representing a symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae. The fungus on the tree collects moisture, which the algae needs. The algae creates food with photosynthesis, which feeds the fungus. If you find the lichen unattractive, scrub it with a soapy solution, kill it with copper-sulfate or remove it by applying lime sulfur to the lichen. Another option is to change the environment where the tree lichens are growing. Lichens like cool, shady, moist locations. Thin out tree branches you allow more sun and air flow.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.