Why Are Trees Losing Leaves in August or Early Fall?

Why Are Trees Losing Leaves in August or Early Fall?

Every autumn, we look forward to seeing tree leaves transform. But how do they know when it’s time to change?

Leaves can actually sense cool temperatures and less daylight, which causes them to change color and eventually drop–usually around October.

When leaves shed well before the fall season, something might be wrong with your tree’s health. One of our readers in Texas noticed, “Right before fall, my oak tree started losing its leaves way early. Now, it has lost almost all its leaves. What is wrong with my tree?”

Learn why your tree leaves may be falling early.

3 Reasons Why Trees Lose Their Leaves in Summer or Early Fall

#1: A crowded canopy

During the growing season, some trees may have grown more leaves than they can support.

Early leaf drop is a way for trees to conserve water in hot, dry weather. As long as the leaf loss isn’t severe, all your tree needs to recover is its weekly dose of water.

#2: Pests and disease

Summer pests or leaf diseases typically make their mark by turning leaves yellow and causing them to wilt or droop. Eventually, these infected leaves fall earlier than normal.

Use this checklist to see what summer pests could be hurting your tree leaves. If those symptoms don’t match, check if a leaf disease may be plaguing your tree.

#3: Something in the water

Too much or too little water can cause late summer leaf loss.

In drought-like conditions, thirsty trees will drop leaves to combat drought stress. Similarly, over-watered tree leaves can turn yellow and fall off. Too much water can suffocate tree roots, which causes stress in the canopy.

Likely, this is what was causing our reader in Texas’s oak tree to drop its leaves in summer.

The next step? Check your tree’s moisture levels, and then plan the best watering regimen.

Want to learn more about why leaves change color in the fall? Watch this short video.

  • The Tree Doctor December 4, 2017 >Hi Karen. This is just because the trees weren’t ready for fall when the frost first occurred. We are seeing this happen a lot this year. It can also be a sign of stress, too, so just keep an eye on it next year to see if this occurs again. If so, we would recommend having an arborist come evaluate the tree. Here if you have any other questions, Karen.
  • Karen Thomas December 2, 2017 >I have a red maple that's in excellent shape, about 30 yrs old and for the first time, never dropped most of its leaves. They've recently turned brown from a hard frost but are still hanging on the tree. It's great because I don't like winter, but I'm wondering whether it's 'great' for the tree? Now, some began dropping earlier in the fall, but it remains quite full as of today, December 2. Can you tell me why this might be?
  • The Tree Doctor August 25, 2017 >Hi Joanna. Yes! Please send us a photo so we can make the best recommendation for your tree. You can send photos to blog@davey.com. Talk to you soon, Joanna.
  • Joanna Sperinck August 24, 2017 >We have a young maybe 5 yrs old tree which has now lost 80% of its leaves. In early August the leaves turned yellow and have fallen. We live in a limestone region but have had an above average amount of rain. I would attached a photo if it allowed me?
  • Pamela Morgan August 21, 2017 >"...grew more leaves than the trees could support...over-watered tree leaves can turn yellow and fall off." answered my question. I live in central AZ and have never seen more yellow leaf drops in August than in this year. (October is normal) I've also never seen more rain in frequency and amount in a summer than in this year, 2017.
  • The Tree Doctor October 11, 2016 >Hi Cody! Good question. Likely, it's because the cooler fall temperatures have arrived much later than usual this year. Or, if you're only noticing this one one side of your silver maple, it may be because of wind exposure. Hope this helps, Cody! Also, we thought you'd enjoy this map that predicts when the leaves will change in your area: http://bit.ly/1NPg2r2.
  • Cody Wilby October 8, 2016 >Why is my silver maple tree not all changing color yet
  • The Tree Doctor September 29, 2016 >Hi there, Hunter! So sorry to hear your willow tree shed its leaves a bit earlier than it should have. We believe there could be two factors that caused this to happen. The leaf drop is likely due to a vigorous spring growing season followed by the temperature spike and lack of rain in mid-June. Or, your leaves may not have developed thick enough cuticles (the waxy outer layer on leaves that provides protection). When this happens, leaves are more susceptible to leaf scorch or leaf fungi. If you have any follow-up questions, Hunter, send them our way at blog@davey.com.
  • Hunter Hixson September 28, 2016 >My willow tree just shed it's leaves in the last two weeks. What could have caused that to happen? Any suggestion why?
  • The Tree Doctor September 26, 2016 >Hi Randal! Thanks again for reaching out to Davey Tree for help. We so appreciate you sending over photos and providing even more detail on what was going on with your oak tree. After analyzing the data, our tree scientists at the Davey Institute identified what is likely plaguing your tree and how to fix it. As always, here if there's anything else I can do to help, Randal.
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