Your Tree Questions Answered!

Your Tree Questions Answered!

You know it's spring when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the flowers begin blooming … and questions for The Tree Doctor start rolling in.

Here are a few of the recent questions we've been asked. We hope the answers to these common questions help you get your trees off to a great start this season.

QUESTION: I planted a potted apple tree that had flowers. A week ago the flowers dropped off and the leaves became really soft. What could be the problem?

ANSWER: This is normal. Flowers typically only last a couple of weeks. Leaves are soft after bud break and harden as the season progresses.

QUESTION: I have a huge tree on my land. But I do not know what kind it is. How can I identify it?

ANSWER: We recommend you look at the tree closely, from leaf shape to bark texture and compare these specifics to a tree identification guide on the Internet to help you identify the tree. One good one is called "What Tree is That?" from the Arbor Day Foundation.

QUESTION: What are fertilizer application rates for feeding fig, pear, plum and other trees?

ANSWER: Apply 2.25 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year with a slow-release, low-burn fertilizer.

QUESTION: I want to plant a Japanese maple. I live in Oklahoma and have a pecan tree that is huge - probably 25 years old. The Japanese maple would be in its shade but subject to the hot, dry winds of Oklahoma. Do you think it would survive? It is very small right now.

ANSWER: A Japanese maple should survive in the shade of a pecan in Oklahoma City, Okla. Deeply water the Japanese maple once weekly during the growing season to prevent drought stress and again just prior to winter around Thanksgiving.

QUESTION: What's the best mulch for your trees and does it depend on whether it's a fruit tree or not?

ANSWER: Crushed coconut shells are actually the best mulch for all types of trees because they retain their color, decay slowly and are crushed into small pieces for a fine texture. Walnut shells and cocoa bean shells are also good for these same reasons. Unfortunately, these aren't always as readily available.

Hardwood mulch, on the other hand, which is more readily available and is inexpensive, loses its color and decays very quickly.

QUESTION: I have two oak trees that I planted on the same day in 2001. One has prospered, has grown to great heights, turns green every year and has produced acorns the past two years. The other has not grown half as much, and the leaves turn yellow and pale green. The northwest side of tree has limbs that won't sprout any leaves at all. I need help knowing how to heal my tree. I love my trees.

ANSWER: This reminds us of the parable of wheat where some was planted in good soil and some was planted in rocky soil. One crop prospered and one didn't.

We think this is probably a result of iron chlorosis due to soil problems. Try adding chelated iron supplements to the soil if the trees are small or through trunk injection once the tree is larger.

QUESTION: The leaves of my white birch came in on the front of the tree, but not in the back part. The branches still seem to be alive in the back.

ANSWER: Have patience for the trees to leaf out. Multi stem birches frequently act as different trees.

Don't forget. If you have a pressing tree care question, you're not alone. You can always ask The Tree Doctor for help.

  • The Tree Doctor September 28, 2017 >Hi Sue. Unfortunately, with the description alone we cannot make a diagnosis. You can send photos of the foliage and the tree to and we will do our best to make a recommendation! Hope to hear from you soon, Sue.
  • Sue Denning September 27, 2017 >I have two sugar maple trees plant 15 ft apart. One has lost all its leaves the other hasn't lost any Is something wrong?
  • The Tree Doctor September 26, 2017 >Hi Mike! Great question! The rope would definitely cause the tree to fail. Basically this causes the tree to girdle or strangles it as the tree grew. Next time, make sure this rope is removed after planting. Here if you have any other questions, Mike.
  • Mike Edmund September 25, 2017 >We had a mid size oak tree planted several years ago -- it snapped in two at ground level in the wind -- right where it snapped we noticed a rope embedded tightly about the trunk - we think it originally held a root bag but that it choked and weakened the trunk there -- would proper planting procedure be to remove this rope after tree is planted ?
  • The Tree Doctor May 26, 2017 >Hi Joyce, and welcome to Georgia! We'd love to help figure out what tree this is. It sounds beautiful! To do that, could you please send a picture to us at That should help us identify what tree this is. Thanks, Joyce.
  • The Tree Doctor May 26, 2017 >Hi Joel. Thanks for reaching out to Davey. From what you've shared, there are likely three reasons this is happening: frost damage, winter damage or transplant shock. Either way, the best thing you can do for your tree is give it a little TLC. Water, mulch, and fertilizer should help. More info on that here, Joel:
  • The Tree Doctor May 26, 2017 >Hi there, Linda! Trees wrapped in lights look absolutely gorgeous! No wonder you want to keep them up. As long as the lights don't inhibit natural growth or cut off any twigs, branches, or the trunk, all should be good! Also, don't drill holes in the tree to hold the lights on because it's bad for the trees and doesn't look good either. Keep enjoying those beautiful lights, Linda.
  • Linda Holmes May 15, 2017 >We have a beautiful courtyard with large potted trees. This year a group of people wrapped the trunks and branches with Christmas lights and liked it so much they are choosing to leave the lights up permanently. Will this cause problems or harm the trees? Thank you., Linda
  • Joel Dieleman May 13, 2017 >I planted two Swamp White Oaks with about 2" diameter trunks about 30' apart from each other last spring. They did very well all summer leafing out nicely. I watered them regularly throughout the summer and fall. This spring as they are starting to leaf out, I'm noticing that there are only leaves on the branches close to the trunk of the tree. Further out on the branches the wood seems to be dead. what would be the cause of this? Are they worth saving, will the leaves and small stems close to the trunk of the tree eventually branch out or will it always look strange.?
  • Joyce Davis April 29, 2017 >I am new to Georgia and have found a tree in my back yard that is quite unusual. I have never seen these blossoms before. The blossoms show a middle stamina surrounded with skinny yellowish, spikey (soft) growths and then surrounded by six petals that contain a lovely organge stripe toward where they attach to the middle stamina. Leaves are six-pointed and symmetrical on two sides. Can you identify this tree for me?
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