What to Do When Your Tree Is Dying: 6 Things You Need To Know

What to Do When Your Tree Is Dying: 6 Things You Need To Know

The trees and plants in the surroundings are living things that need to be taken care of. The trees and plants provide a lot of benefits not only to mother earth but also to us, human beings. Trees add life as well as color to the environment.

For some, trees can be a great addition to enhance your garden and home facade. Thus, in this article, I am going to share with you six efficient tips on how to save a dying tree in your backyard.

Note: This is a guest-post by Lucy Clark of GardenAmbition.com. Please join me in welcoming her to the Runamuk blog!

Ready? Here are the six things you need to know about how to save a dying tree:

what to do when your tree is dying

what to do when your tree is dying1. IDENTIFY THE SIGNS OF A DYING TREE

Not all people can classify a dying tree from an already dead tree. They are completely two different things. The confusion starts because both look lifeless, dried up, and without any trace of green leaves. So, before you go ahead and save a dying tree, know first if it is dying or already dead. Nourishing a dead tree back to life would be pointless and time-consuming.

dying tree
A dying tree usually has a bent structure, cracks, decay and dried-up.

A dying tree may have the following signs:

  • Bent structure – The tree is not upright because the root is losing its strength.
  • Cracks – There is a continuous crack on the trunk of the tree.
  • Decay – There are fungi or mushrooms on the surface of the tree.
  • Dried Up Wood – Extreme dryness is a sign of a dying tree. The branches look lifeless and can easily crack when you put pressure in it.
  • Light to No Leaves – Dying trees often have fewer leaves than healthy trees. Leaves can be found in a few branches.


cutting dying tree
An arborist has the necessary training and knowledge to analyze and treat any tree problem.

Since you already know the signs of a dying tree, the next thing you need to do is to determine the cause of why it is dying. Determining the exact cause is quite tricky; hence, you might need to consult an arborist for proper guidance. This will increase the chance of saving your tree.


Watering can be detrimental to the health of some trees.

Moisture issues are commonly the reasons why a tree is prone to dying. Mature trees can be adversely affected by too much or too little water. Dehydration can kill all living beings – humans, animals, and trees. To ensure your trees grow healthy and sturdy, make sure that they are properly nourished. You have to check and make sure that the area where the tree is located has a good drainage system. Using your garden hose, set it on high stream and water the tree from 0.5 to 2 minutes. Control the nozzle and avoid drowning the soil with too much water. If you do not have enough time to water the tree, setup an automated sprinklers instead.


How does using a mulch save a tree? Mulching is one way to nourish the soil surrounding your tree. However, when not done correctly, it can be harmful to the trees. Be sure not to put too much mulch around the base. Just place enough mulch to allow the roots to breathe. Dig the ground so that the mulch has direct contact with the roots. Make it at least 5 inches deep. Using your rake, spread the mulch, only apply 1.5 inches of mulch. In doing so, it helps prevent a host of other tree problems like bacteria and fungi infections.

Organic Mulch can save dying trees. It contains compost, tree bark chips, wheat straw and others.


organic fertilizers
Soils with organic fertilizers remain loose and airy which can help a dying tree.

Fertilizers are another item that can help your dilemma on how to save a dying tree. When using fertilizers, avoid sprinkling or spraying it too much to the trees. Before jumping to the conclusion that a sick or dying tree needs fertilizer, test the soil first to make sure you are saving the tree and correcting the problem. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the full benefits of the fertilizers. When you are unsure, consult it first with an arborist. Perhaps, it is not the soil nourishment that causes your tree to die. There could be other factors involved like pests or dehydration.


If you want to learn about how to save a dying tree, it is helpful if you research on appropriate pruning techniques. Know the kind of tree and the disease because there is a proper pruning for each, and it should be adjusted accordingly. If there are unhealthy areas noticeable on a tree, correctly removing the diseased sections could save a tree’s life. Be sure to get rid of the unhealthy branches to prevent the problem from spreading. Use sanitized shears, knives, or saw to remove unwanted branches.

Pruning can help your tree retain its nourishment.


There are so many ways on how to save a dying tree, but these six steps are the forerunner. In some cases, the reason why a tree is dying could be more than just about nourishment and diseases. Weather conditions and expected lifespan could also play a role. Trees have saved us so many times, and it is now our turn to save them. So, go ahead and look around your garden for some trees to save!

Thank you for reading and don’t hesitate to share your tree-story below! Happy gardening!


  1. Trent Jackson

    I was browsing web for help. I Like this information hoping for advice.
    Basics are I planted a young tree(Apricot) it was doing great. I did not watch water. Heat of summer is hitting and it shed the leaves about 1/2. I have watered it. Did I wait too long to pay attention and try to save it?

    1. Samantha Burns

      Only time will tell, Trent! I would keep watering it regularly, mulch it, if you can, to retain moisture and reduce weed-pressure, and just wait and see. They’re more resilient than we give them credit for.

  2. alice re

    My Laburnum tree had a lot of spiderwebs in the spring for a couple of years but now it looks like its dying from the top moving downward. Should I just prune it or is it too late?

    1. Samantha Burns

      Hi Alice! I would definitely prune away anything dead. My guess is that the issue lies in the soil, so maybe try researching to see what kind of nutrients that Laburnum wants, and try amending the soil. Also, how is the drainage of your soil? I am no arborist, though, so it may be beneficial to reach out to a licensed arborist and ask as many questions as you can. Good luck!

  3. Mit

    I grow a 6 month old drumstick tree in my balcony, in a bag of 24″ x 24″ and about 2.5 feet tall. 3 days ago, it’s leaves turned yellow, and yesterday, all the leaves have fallen and the top part of the tree has turned brown. What went wrong? I composted my tree and watered it frequently. It is currently winter in my place. I live in Bangalore, India. I would like to know where did I do something wrong and is there a way to save my tree.

    1. Samantha Burns

      It’s hard for me to say, Mit, since I am in Maine and not familiar with growing conditions in India, but I suspect either the tree has gone into dormancy due to your winter conditions, OR it either needs more growing space (a bigger planter), OR you’ve overwatered it. If you have a local greenhouse or nursery, you might also ask them for guidance. Good luck, my friend!

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  5. Thanks for telling me that seeing fungi or mushrooms around the tree area might be a sign that it is already dying. Some mushrooms are growing around the huge tree we have in our front yard and I’m afraid that there’s no hope left for it. I’ll try to save it first by following your advice before calling for a tree removal service.

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  7. karen

    We live in Houston, Tx. I have a pin oak tree very old tree trunk is 30″ in diameter. Last year we had it professionally pruned. They brought the tree line up off the house. I was told on the lower half (about 5′ from the base of the tree) we had four or five bore beetles wholes. There were signs of them with black wholes and sap. We treated the area and sprayed with black tree tar to close them up. Per the tree service. Then we started getting a white fungus on the tree along with green moss. Next we started seeing channels in the area where we had the bore beetles. After that the bark in a couple of spots came off on the raised part of the channel area. We still have beautiful green leaves no dead branches it covers and tilts over our entire roof. This yr I found on the other side of the tree one bore beetle black close to the bottom of the trunk near a root. Now I see more channels in the roots and all over the base. We had it treated professionally for bugs and fungus. I don’t see a change in the white fungus nor the moss. On a pin oak the roots are above ground as well. When will I know if I should take this tree down? I have seen in our neighbor hood where trees like mine that have full foliage will break about 6′ up. The Expert we hired specializes in diseased trees. We have spent a lot of money on one treatment. They will come back in the fall for another treatment. I’m growing concerned about this tree advice.

  8. You’re absolutely right on many of your points but i’d say food and water are the most important things. Go organic as they usually are slow release, the bacteria found in the food is what slowly breaks down the food and allows the tree to consume it. Watering is obviously so important because it hydrates your trees. It’s best to go on a watering routine if at all possible so that you are consistently watering them. Thanks for sharing!

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