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 February 23, 2017 >Hi Heather! The Acacia kauaiensis is truly a beautiful tree, isn't it? This tree loves the heat, so it grows best in garden zones 9, 10 and 11. Since you're in zone 7B, the tree wouldn't be able to take the cold temperatures in Georgia. You could try planting in a container and bringing it inside when the temperatures drop. In that case, the best time to plant would be spring or fall. Here if you have any other questions, Heather. We're always here to help!
  • Heather can February 22, 2017 >Can I successfully plant and grow a Acacia kauaiensis tree in Georgia? and when is the best time of year to plant it
  • JOHN HAWAKA February 2, 2017 >Will a sapling that has been stripped of its leaves survive?
  • The Tree Doctor October 14, 2016 >Hi there, Vivian! Thanks for reaching out to us for help on this. If there's room for water to puddle in the V-shaped trunk, your tree could be infected by fungal pathogens, which need water to live and can cause tree diseases. That's why puddling water can be bad for trees. Also, V-shaped trunks have less hardwood, which makes the tree more prone to break. V-shaped trunks are a sign that something could be wrong with your tree, so we do recommend having a certified arborist out again to evaluate its health. Here if you have any more questions, Vivian. This article may also be helpful:
  • Vivian Heath October 10, 2016 >Hi, I discovered my Magnolia is rotten (it has a Y-shaped trunk) ... people tell me Y-shaped trunks rot over time from water collecting. But, an arborist told me only four years ago the tree was in good shape. I'm concerned I might have hurt it because a year and a half ago I had a lot of dirt brought in - like 12 inches to build up my yard ... I left three feet around the tree but I am worried I might have smothered the feeder roots that extend way beyond. My question is... when a Y-shaped trunk rots, is that really from water damage collecting like people tell me or is it because the tree is dying from inside and just shows the damage in that spot first. I wonder why it hasn't been damaged from the water all these years. Why now? Thanks for shedding any light on this.
  • The Tree Doctor September 13, 2016 >Hi there, Walter. Yes, if you're starting magnolia and red maple trees from cuttings, we would recommend bringing them inside in the winter. Give them lots of light indoors. Then, when the weather warms up, you can plant outside. Hope this helps, Walter!
  • walter stafnack September 3, 2016 >when you start magnolia and red maple trees from cuttings can you leave them outside in the winter in Pennsylvania 50 miles north of Philadelphia ?
  • The Tree Doctor August 15, 2016 >Hi Cyndy! Wow - that sounds like a stunning tree! Let's figure out what's going on. Without knowing where the fungus is on your tree (leaf, branches or trunk), it could be a black knot or plum canker. Look up pictures of those and see if they match. Or, as you mentioned, you can share a photo with us. Snap a few pictures and send them to for our analysis. Hope this helps, Cyndy!
  • Cyndy Weir August 10, 2016 >I have an old plum tree that produces the little dark cherry plums. It looks like it has a fungus growing on it and I don't know how to treat it or if it will spread and I'll have to take the tree down. It is a white and hard growth on 2 different locations. Would it help if I took a photograph of it? There is also some discoloration in one spot where a limb was sawed off.
  • The Tree Doctor July 19, 2016 >Hi there, Doteen. Oh no - sorry to hear your white oak is losing leaves prematurely. Yes, sending in a picture is exactly what we need to figure out what's plaguing your tree. You can send a picture to Once we have that, our scientists at the Institute will analyze it and get back to you! Thanks, Doteen. Talk more soon.
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