Well-Meaning Practices That Can Kill Your Tree, If Done Wrong

There is nothing like a tree to light up the aesthetics of a yard, which is why people go to great lengths to take care of their trees. However, many tree care practices can actually go awry if not done right. Here are three examples:


Mulching reduces water loss via evaporation by shielding the soil at the base of the tree from direct rays of the sun, thereby helping the tree to get more water. Organic mulch also provides the tree with nutrients. Therefore, on the surface, it seems that mulching is one of the best tree-care practices around, but this is only true if you do it right.

Placing a large amount of mulch against a tree's trunk is a recipe for disaster. Such type of mulching encourages stem girding roots, which can kill trees. It can also encourage and hide decay of the lower trunk. Therefore, ensure that the mulch is at least 12 inches away from the trunk of your tree.


Staking is done to prevent the movement of the lower trunk and root system. For example, it may be necessary to stake a newly planted tree or an old leaning tree to stabilize them. Staking is generally discouraged, but it's sometimes necessary and helpful if done right.

Here are a few examples of wrong staking practices that may harm a tree:

  • Using a hard material, such as a wire, which may cut into the tree's trunk.
  • Leaving the stake on for too long
  • Over-tightening the tree to the stake


The last example is pruning, which is the selective removal of unwanted tree parts such as dead or diseased branches. For example, if a fruit tree has overgrown foliage, pruning may remove some of the materials so that every part of the tree can receive sunlight and air. Again, however, improper pruning techniques can damage a tree rather than help it.

For example, removing too many branches can leave a tree unable to manufacture its food, and it may end up dying. Wounding the tree, especially the parts you don't intend to remove, can also harm the tree by acting as entry points for disease. Even the pruning season, which depends on the tree's species, also matters; for example, pruning west-facing branches during the summer may lead to scalding. To stay on the safe side, always work with a tree services company. 

As you can see, tree care is a complicated subject, and you can easily go wrong with your well-meaning intentions. Therefore, don't make any assumptions when it comes to caring for your trees; always consult a tree care expert for the correct information.