Ever looked at your tree and thought something’s missing?

That’s just what happened to one Davey blog reader who reached out about two sparse-looking trees in her yard. She said, “We have one plum and one dogwood tree that have begun to have empty spots with no leaves at all, but other areas have leaves. Is there some way to save them?”

Let’s get into the potential reasons why this reader’s trees, and your trees, might have leafless spots.

What does it mean if my tree has empty spots?

Trees with empty spots could be battling an insect infestation. Or responding to unexpected weather change. Or reacting to soil issues. Sense a theme here? Yep, this question can be a tough one to answer because all trees are different, and a number of outside factors can rob them of a full canopy.

To get to the bottom of your tree’s dilemma, look past the missing leaves for telling symptoms. 

Three causes of canopy thinning

If your tree has bare spots, it might be because of:

  • Borer insects: These discreet beetles or caterpillars chew their way through tree bark, leaving spurts of tiny holes in the trunk. The annoying gnawers weaken the tree as they feed, which can cause empty spots in the canopy.
  • Weather-related stress: Brutally cold weather can shock some parts of the tree more than others. Areas with sparse leaves may be struggling to recover from winter elements.
  • Cramped soil: Compacted soil, or soil that gets packed too tightly together, can stunt tree growth in some areas.

How to treat canopy thinning

Healthy trees are much less likely to have bare spots. So, proper care like watering during dry periods and layering tree beds with a 2-to-4-inch layer of mulch helps a bunch.

But, it’s just as important to pinpoint why your particular tree is struggling. Even if you have a hunch—those borer insect holes really give it away!—it’s hard to accurately diagnose your tree and arrive at the right solution on your own.

That’s where a professional arborist comes in. Arborists help you avoid a guessing game by inspecting your tree and recommending a solution that’ll meet its specific needs.

Find a professional arborist to inspect your tree.

Related Blog Posts

Whats Wrong With My Forsythia
Leaf & Needle Problems

Why Didn't My Forsythia Bloom This Year?

Here are some issues that can stop forsythia shrubs from flowering: improper pruning, fungal diseases, placement in the yard, harsh winter and well-drained soil. Leaf problems, like discoloration or wilting, could be a sign the bush is dying.
Read More
Tree Not Leafing Out
Leaf & Needle Problems

Why Is My Tree Not Blooming?

Why is my tree not blooming? Get all the details on why: how trees know it’s time to grow in spring, what to do once your tree blooms, tree leaf out schedule for each region and what to do if you have a late bloomer.
Read More

Sign Up For Free Tree & Landscaping Tips! 

Subscribe to the "The Sapling," the Davey Blog's email newsletter, for the latest tips to keep your outdoor space in tip-top shape throughout the year.

Plus, receive a free instant download of our landscape seasonal checklists when you sign up!

Get In Touch With Us!

We pride ourselves at Davey Tree on providing prompt, professional and personalized service from certified arborists that live, work and engage in your community. Contact one of our Davey Tree specialists for your residential, commercial, utility, or environmental needs.

Let's Find What
You're Looking For!

Davey uses cookies to make your experience a great one by providing us analytics so we can offer you the most relevant content. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies. View our Privacy Policy for more information.