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.

  • Lisa Wilcox May 7, 2018 >If bark is peeling off an old tree; what should you Do? The tree is about 50 years old and is a beautiful large crimson king maple. The bark peeled off on one side just at the bottom of the trunk.
  • The Tree Doctor December 4, 2017 >Hi there, Jean. Oh no! Sorry to hear about your tree! It really depends on the severity of the damage to the tree. If there is extensive damage to the cambium (layer between the inner bark and the wood), it may not be able to survive, as nutrients would not be able to move throughout the tree. If the wound is fresh, it is best not to cover it. It’s actually better to leave it open and let it heal naturally. We would recommend to keep the fencing up to prevent new injuries as well. Hope this helps, Jean.
  • Jean Schmidt December 2, 2017 >Planted a young maple last spring. Deer have rubbed antlers against bark and removed quite bit of it on one side. Have barricaded it and covered scars with plastic bags for the winter. Will this young tree survive?
  • The Tree Doctor November 27, 2017 >Hi there, Josh. It depends what you are looking for. But, Norway Spruce are nice and resistant to more diseases than a Colorado Blue Spruce. If you are looking for privacy, arborvitaes are a good option. Hope this helps, Josh.
  • Josh Moyer November 23, 2017 >What’s a good pine tree to plant after thinning trees in woods for regeneration. Thanks.
  • The Tree Doctor October 31, 2017 >Hi Andy. No, we wouldn’t recommend cutting out the rotten section, as there is no way to know what caused the “rot.” There may be other options to help the tree survive, but its best to have a certified arborist evaluate the damage and make a recommendation from there. Hope this helps, Andy.
  • The Tree Doctor October 31, 2017 >Hi Damian. We would recommend applying a 3-4 inch mulch layer to the roots to insulate them, keeping about 6 inches away from the trunk and extending it all the way to the dripline. Also, make sure your tree has plenty of water in the fall. Wrapping the tree depends on the type of Japanese maple and what it’s hardiness zone is. Sometimes it is recommended to build a burlap ‘teepee’ around the tree if it is under 3 years and the size is conducive to doing so. Hope this helps, Damian.
  • Damian Zalazinski October 28, 2017 >we have a Japinease Maple sampling, I live in the Chicago area. Do I need to cover this tree in the winter?
  • Andy Woolington October 27, 2017 >I have a large oak tree about 2' in diameter with rotting on on one side at the base of trunk. It looks like another part of the tree was cut off years ago. I've lived here 20 years. Can I take a chain saw and cut out the rotten wood and paint to help the tree survive another 20?
  • 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.
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