How to Save a Dying Tree

By August 30, 2021No Comments
Lichen and Tree Disease

Saving a dying tree is possible, but it takes experience, care, and foresight. There are many environmental factors that can cause a tree’s health to decline, the most common offenders being insect damage and disease. A trained arborist can often save a tree from further declining, but there are both natural reasons for its distress, and human errors that can adversely impact its lifespan.

The question of whether a dying tree can be saved comes down to finding the right specialist to execute a plan informed by years of arborist expertise, someone who is understanding and aware of the reasons for a tree’s impending decline. Before any actions are taken, the problem must be properly identified. While there may not always be a perfect solution to save a dying, unhealthy tree, there may be a large enough window of time to reverse the issues that are causing the tree harm. Fortunately, the experts at Contender’s understand the science behind tree health and maintenance, and they can use that knowledge to go to work for you, doing everything in their power to save your dying trees or shrubs, giving them the boost they need to return to their “green glory.”

How to Identify a Sick Tree

A sick, dying tree often can be saved if you, as the homeowner, notice the tree is showing signs of decline. Your Contender’s arborist technician will be monitoring the health of the landscape during their routine visits, but it is ultimately your duty as the homeowner to be on the lookout for some telltale signs of sickness. Common signs of distress and/or decline include black spots on the leaves, early leaf drop, curling leaves, peeling bark, branch die-off, etc. The average homeowner will not always be able to tell whether a tree is already dead or if it can be saved, but it is still important to survey the trees and shrubs on your property regularly to make note any issues that may need attention. These can be relayed to your technician by the office staff over the phone, so that this may be noted in your account for your arborist’s next visit to the property.

A certified arborist from Contender’s Tree & Lawn Specialists will be able to determine if they can save a particular tree or shrub from dying once you have noticed the signs of distress. For example, trunk injection services may be recommended, or some type of insect control may be needed, such as a foliar spray. So, while you may not be able to heal a dying tree on your own, you can work with your technician to identify issues before the damage becomes irreversible.

Here are a few ways to tell that your tree is having health issues:

  • Leaves that are on the trees are dry, curling, or brown.
  • Cracks are on the trunk, or the wood appears brittle in certain areas.
  • The tree is bent in an unusual position, which signifies weakness in the roots.
  • Areas of decay are evident, especially around the trunk or on the branches.
  • A green, mossy build-up appears on branches.

Uncovering a Solution for a Dying Tree

Once an issue has been discovered, a certified arborist technician can help you determine if a declining tree or shrub can be saved. The health of a single tree can have a significant impact on the overall environment of your yard. Through working with this type of qualified tree expert, a plan to restore the tree’s health can be developed.

Any one of these issues can be the initial “root cause” of decline in your tree, but this is often not the only reason why your tree is no longer thriving. These environmental stressors create a negative domino effect, where a lack of watering or root competition causes the tree to weaken, where it then becomes the ideal host for fungal diseases, insect infestations, and more. Some of these are potentially more fatal than others, but many are cause for concern. At Contender’s Tree and Lawn Specialists, we treat all of these resulting issues, so the health and vigor of your tree can be restored and maintained yearly.

Some of the reasons for poor tree health include:

Drainage Issues

Too much or too little water can majorly and adversely affect the health of your tree. Having a good drainage area around your dying tree is important to prevent it from becoming dehydrated. You can use a hose on a high stream and water the tree in a steady manner for about 1-2 minutes without drowning out the root system. Different trees may require varying amounts of water at certain times of the year, so be sure to consult with your arborist technician.


Mulching can nourish the soil around a tree, but it can also affect its health when done incorrectly. Too much mulch around the base of a tree may make it difficult for the roots to breathe. The mulch should have direct contact with the tree’s roots, somewhere about five inches deep. This can help prevent fungal disease issues and go a long way toward restoring a tree’s health. The manner in which a tree has been planted can greatly affect its health down the line. There may be too many trees planted in one area, and the tree with less established roots gets choked out from too much root competition. The tree may have recently been transplanted, causing rapid decline typically called transplant shock.


Too much or too little fertilizer can be bad for your dying tree. Soils with organic fertilizers can help an area around a tree remain loose, giving the root system plenty of room to breathe. This will allow your tree to get the extra nourishment it needs. There is, of course, deep root fertilization, with a tailored blend of essential nutrients and organic sea kelp fed right into the root of the sick tree, restoring its vitality over time. Please ask your arborist if this treatment is right for your tree.


Every situation is different, but there are proper pruning techniques to execute, depending on the type of tree and the issues affecting its overall health. A certified arborist and tree expert can help direct you on the proper pruning techniques, given your landscape’s situation. At Contender’s, technicians often give instructions in their service reports that are emailed to you after the service has been performed. Honest, proper communication is essential when dealing with matters as important as declining trees. One common step that arborists recommend is to remove any unhealthy branches to prevent the disease from spreading. When doing so, it is recommended to use specific tools, such as a saw or sanitized shears, so that the pruning is handled appropriately. Sanitizing shears between different trees and shrubs is very important, as you may spread a fungal disease from a sick tree to a healthy one. It is also important to properly dispose of any branches that have a fungal issue, as many fungal diseases can spread from infected branches to your lawn, creating unsightly brown patches in the turf that will spread.

Why Saving Your Dying Tree is Important

The most notable reason you want to save a dying tree is that having healthy trees on your property is good for the environment. Trees as part of a well-maintained yard offer value to your home and add beauty to your neighborhood. In this business, it’s important for a tree healthcare company to recognize how attached a homeowner can become to certain trees and shrubs on their property over time, and it’s important that they share a common goal with the homeowner to do everything possible to save the tree. It is essential for arborists to focus on the “why’s” of maintaining landscape health, rather than just the “how’s.” If a homeowner has had a beautiful, ancient tree sitting outside their window every day for 30 years, and one day they notice it is in decline, panic often sets in, and that fear of loss is something a good arborist will recognize and be sympathetic to.

Trees also provide important and necessary protection from the wind and hot summer sun. There is a big difference between enjoying lunch on your back deck in the shade of healthy trees and having to cope with the brutal heat of the sun without any shade. Having shade around your house can also prevent the sun from lightening the color of your house’s paint or aluminum siding. It’s always the little things that you wouldn’t think about until that tree has died, been removed, and you are left to go on without it.

Get your free consultation on how to save a dying tree

Our experts at Contender’s are often asked how to save a tree from dying. In many cases, even if your tree has been adversely impacted by insects, disease, wind and poor weather conditions, water issues etc., we can help. The first step is to schedule a free consultation with a certified arborist from the Contender’s team who can identify any potentially sick or declining trees and provide a free estimate and onsite evaluation.

The certification that our experts hold from the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) lets clients know that our team members possess a high degree of knowledge when it comes to caring for and maintaining the health of trees and shrubs. You can trust this expertise to help save a dying tree on your property. Contact Contender’s and feel free to look around our website to learn more about how you can take the next steps to better the health of your property today.