Common Tree Care Mistakes

Common Tree Care Mistakes: 10 Common Mistakes People Make

Taking care of trees is not as simple as it looks.

They may be the toughest and hardest amongst plants, but they still require proper care and attention. Looking after them is not as straightforward as it seems. In fact, a lot of people make the most significant mistakes which harm them or worse — kill them.

The following are the most common mistakes people make when caring for trees.

Not Pruning Enough

Pruning is the process of cutting away dead or overgrown branches and stems. This process is done for a number of reasons, the most important of which is safety. Dead tree branches should never be underestimated as they can fall anytime, endangering people, buildings, and power lines.

The danger: Not pruning enough can significantly affect the growth of trees. When done incorrectly, it can negatively affect a tree’s growth and restrict air circulation through the branches.

What to do: Some people think that once a tree is mature, it no longer requires pruning. Pruning is important while it is young and even when it’s already old. Just be sure to do it correctly and at the right time.

Pruning Too Much

As well as not pruning enough, pruning too much can be a big risk to your tree’s health.

The danger: A tree can be fatally damaged if too much is pruned. Cutting the healthy branches can affect its stability which can lead to a potentially hazardous situation. On the other hand, cutting too close to the main trunk can leave an open wound making it susceptible to pests and diseases.

What to do: Prune the smallest amount you possibly can while taking into consideration your desired effect. Never prune more than a quarter of the crown since this is where most of the leaves are.

Equipment Damage

This is something that a lot of people tend to overlook. As much as we like to keep our yards clean and orderly, equipment like lawn mowers and strimmers can damage trees, especially if their roots are showing. Even bicycles or other things leaning against a tree can cause wounds.

The danger: A nick in a tree trunk or branch may not seem a big deal, but it can be. A small cut is all that’s needed for a fungus to enter your tree and cause it to die in a few years or less.

What to do: Be cautious when using any equipment around your tree. When mowing or strimming, make sure that the roots are not damaged. If you are going to lean items on your tree, make sure you do so carefully, and that no sharp edges can potentially damage the bark.


Mulching around the base of a tree is helpful because it traps moisture in the soil. This way, you don’t have to water your tree as often during low-rainfall seasons. Unfortunately, ‘volcano mulching’ seems to have become a trend and a lot of people are not aware that it’s not healthy.

The danger: Too much mulch will trap too much moisture. When there’s too much moisture, your tree is more prone to developing root rot and fungal infections.

What to do: Moderation is the key. 3-4 inches of organic mulch should be enough, just be sure to apply it just off the trunk to the outer dripline. An excellent choice for mulching is wood chips.

Ignoring Early Symptoms Of Illness

Trees are living creatures just like us. As such, prevention is better than cure. Most fungal infections need to be treated by an expert as soon as you see the following symptoms:

  • Sudden death of various branches
  • Early loss of leaves as well as spots on them.
  • Sores on the twigs and branches
  • Scabs on fruits (if you have a fruit-bearing tree)

The danger: If not treated immediately, the tree will not survive.

What to do: Seek professional help at the earliest signs of a disease. The earlier, the better.

Ignoring A Hazardous Tree

A hazardous tree is one that can potentially damage your property or worse, hurt people. It can be a tree that’s seemingly dying or already dead. It can also be a tree that has grown close to power lines or over your home.

The danger: A hazardous tree is like a ticking time bomb. The tree or parts of it will fall off; you just don’t know when. It can wreak havoc on your home, injure people, and even cause fire (if it’s near power lines).

What to do: Inspect your trees from time to time especially before and after a storm. If you think a tree is damaged, do not stand under it or examine it during windy weather. It would be a lot safer to use binoculars instead.

Over And Under Irrigation

Too much and too little water are both harmful to trees. Young trees, in particular, need an adequate supply of water to grow healthy. Even mature and larger trees still need enough water to stay strong and sturdy.

The danger: Not watering your trees enough can lead to their death. Some of the most common signs of trees not getting enough water are when leaves change color (when they’re not supposed to) or wilt. Overwatering can suffocate a tree when there’s too much water in the soil.

What to do: The amount of water trees need depends on a couple of factors like age, species, time of the year, weather, and soil type. As a general rule, younger trees should be watered more frequently.

Bad Timing

When it comes to trees, bad timing could mean a lot of things. Pruning, watering, tree topping, applying fertilizers, and a lot more need to be done at the right time.

The danger: Doing something to a tree when it’s not the right time yet could lead to disaster. For example, pruning should not be done during fall. The reason behind this is because this is the time of the year when decay fungi profusely spread their spores.

The trees’ wounds from pruning will have a slow and hard time healing. It can even leave your trees susceptible to other diseases.

What to do: Study your trees and learn more about them, their species, and what works for them. When in doubt, seek a professional’s help.

Planting Too Deep

Roots of trees grow well when they’re in shallow soil and get ample amount of water, oxygen, and nutrients. When planted too deep, the roots get deprived of these resources as it is more difficult for them to penetrate the soil deep enough.

The danger: Roots will struggle to grow and may even grow upwards and back toward the trunk. This is known as a girdling root which will encircle all of the trunk. This will lead to the tree’s poor health because the movement of water and nutrients become restricted, as well as making the tree unstable.

What to do: The goal is to get it right the first time. If it’s already too late, consider replanting young trees. Established trees that are planted too deeply can be remedied by removing excess soil from the flare of the tree root.

Tree Topping

Tree topping is usually done to cut back or clear a problematic tree from power lines. It can also be done to get a better view.

The danger: Topping a tree can make it look ugly, mangled, and disfigured. It can also lead to insect infestations and rot, making the tree prone to diseases.

What to do: Think ahead. Forecast where a tree will grow relative to power lines before you even plant it. If you think topping a tree is the only option, consider other management practices like pruning, for instance. Otherwise, you may need to have it completely removed if replanting is no longer possible.

Trees are naturally pleasing on the eyes, and at the same time, we benefit from them a lot. They can live for decades, centuries, or even more provided that you treat them correctly.

Consulting a professional should always be the first thing to do whenever you’re not sure of something. Trust them. After all, they know what they’re doing.

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