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Partner Post: Four Signs It’s Time to Break Up with Your Tree

During this month of love, it’s important to know when to call it quits. That’s what gardening is all about—trying something out and learning from your mistakes.

Sometimes you know for sure when it’s time to “break up” with your tree. Other times, you’re not so sure. But when that favorite tree falls ill, it goes from being an asset to a liability.

Identifying a sick tree is easy, says R.J. Laverne, manager of education and training for The Davey Tree Expert Company. He suggests a simple visual inspection to help homeowners determine the right time to replace a sick tree.

“Visually inspecting your tree is a four-part assessment, starting from the ground up,” says Laverne. “If you see a problem at the base, chances are the tree has more significant problems at the top.”

Laverne’s four-part, seasonal inspection is a simple way to catch sick trees before they become a danger.  

Step 1: Get to the root of it. Take notice to what is happening at the base of the tree, says Laverne. “Pay attention to the tree’s roots, looking for soft spots or decay.”

Step 2: Provide support. The collar is where the trunk and roots meet at the soil surface. Laverne says to pull back the grass or ground-cover to check for decay. If bark is missing, falling off, broken, or if there are cracks in the trunk, it’s a sign of developing decay.

Step 3: Examine what’s going on inside. Look for deep, large cracks in the trunk. These indicate structural weakness in the tree and need careful evaluation. Trunk swelling, or an overgrowth of one area of the bark, also signifies advanced decay. A certified arborist can determine the extent of decay by using a probe.

Step 4: Pay close attention. Look up to the crown, or top of the tree. From the ground, Laverne says to look out for broken or hanging branches, limbs with missing bark and bare branches with no new leaf or bud growth come spring.

After performing this four-part assessment, if a tree is indeed showing symptoms of decline beyond normal seasonal changes, the next step is to determine its potential hazard. An expert, such as a certified arborist from your local Davey Tree Expert Company, can assess the tree using proper tools and determine if the tree can be treated or if it is best to replace it.

Remember, taking action now will not only keep the tree and area around it safe, but it also will decrease your costs because it is much more cost effective to treat a tree now than to remove it later.

Plus, soon you’ll meet a new tree that’s right for you. Plant it in the right place and it will be a long lasting relationship!

Davey Tree's RJ Laverne shows you how to spot a tree that needs to be replaced in the video below.



The Davey Tree Expert Company’s more than 8,000 employees provide tree care, grounds maintenance and environmental consulting services for the residential, utility, commercial and government markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. Davey has provided Proven Solutions for a Growing World since 1880 and has been employee-owned for 35 years. For more information, visit