How to Grow & Keep Healthy Trees

Contrary to the popular misconception, insects and microorganisms are not typically the cause of most tree problems. They may be secondary agents that attack weakened, wounded, improperly treated, and neglected trees, but the real culprit is less obvious. The real problem with unsightly trees and shrubs is poor treatment from humans.

Once that is understood, there are actions you can take to insure the health and longevity of your trees and shrubs. Here are some brief guidelines to keep your trees healthy, safe and looking great.


Plant the right tree in the right place.  

Do NOT plant…

  • Maples in alkaline soils
  • Trees in old alkaline building rubble
  • Maples or Willows in dry soils, Pines in wet soils
  • Birches in shade, Dogwoods in unprotected open sites
  • Learn the biological requirements of your trees.
  • Do not plant unless you plan to maintain.
  • During the cold seasons ie Fall & Winter

Plant properly.


  • Crowd trees in small holes with compacted soil.
  • Over-amend the soil with humus.
  • Fertilize at planting time.
  • Do prune dead and dying branches and roots.

Keep grass away.


  • Water grass heavily near trees that normally grow on  dry sites.
  • Line grass heavily near trees that grow best in acid soils.
  • Wound trees with lawnmowers and other machines.
  • Heavy use of herbicides may harm trees.

Brace, but not too tightly.           


  • Tie young trees so tightly that they do not move.
  • Leave braces on after tree is established.
  • Kill bark with cords, wires, bands, etc.

Prevent wounds.    


  • Allow hatchet or knife carvings in your trees.
  • Put nails or bolts in your trees, such as to hold up tree houses.
  • Allow heavy construction machines near your trees.
  • Park cars near trees.


Before you fertilize or consider treatments for micro-element problems, have a soil test done. Your trees may require soil acidification before fertilization, or treatment for micro-element problems. Fertilizers add essential elements for healthy growth, but fertilizers are NOT tree food!

Trees get their energy from the sun. Leaves and needles trap and store their energy in the form of sugar molecules. Sugar is tree food. Keep leaves and needles healthy through timely treatments that ensure trees can process their food. Keep soils free of compaction so roots can get water and essential elements. Feed your trees but do not over fertilize.

When in doubt about what to do, contact your county, state or university for help, or ask the United State Forest Service, or local arborists for guidance. Better yet, contact Acorn Tree & Stump Services for a free on-site inspection of your problem trees and shrubs and our trained specialists can work out a plan that best suites your situation.