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Seeing Red Before Fall? Early Fall Color Can Be a Sign of Tree Stress

MKTG-16-905_Red_Leaves_Partner_Post-01.jpgVibrant red, orange and gold leaves are one of the best parts of fall. Many cities across the country are known for their beautiful fall show. But, it’s a problem when trees show early signs of fall well before summer has ended.

Stressed trees exhibit early leaf color, browning and leaf drop. If you see this in your own backyard, your trees may be asking for help.

Thirsty trees, those inundated by insects or disease or stressed for other reasons may stop producing chlorophyll, causing the fall coloring process to speed up and end before the summer season.

A hot summer can take its toll on trees for years to come. Even after recovering, trees may still be weak and need extra attention for the remainder of the season. A certified arborist can check your trees to help them make it through the remaining hot days.

But you can start now. Check leaves to see if they are the right color for the season. Leaves should not be brown, yellow or irregularly shaped. Signs also include wilting and drooping leaves.

Take care of your trees now by following these four easy steps and enjoy the fall color at the right time.

4 Steps to Keep Trees Healthy

  1. Protect trees from disease, insects and unpredictable weather by giving them the nutrients they need. As long as your trees aren’t experiencing drought, you can apply a slow-release fertilizer according to directions.
  2. Water trees once a week from March until October, and twice a week during periods of no or little rain. Only water the area under the tree’s branches, known as the drip zone. Avoid directly irrigating the trunk.
  3. Make sure you’re not overwatering using the “soup can” trick. Place an empty soup can near the tree inside the sprinkler pattern and run the sprinkler very slowly over several hours until 2-3” has collected in the can.
  4. Apply wood chips, shredded leaves, pine needles or compost to help trees maintain moisture where they need it — their roots. Spread mulch in a wide circle, no more than 3” deep, around the tree to conserve water. Pull mulch back from the trunk of the tree like a donut, not like a volcano.

Think your trees are stressed? Make an appointment with a certified arborist to learn how to care for, protect and enhance the vibrant color of fall for seasons to come.


The Davey Tree Expert Company’smore than 8,600 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 37 years. For more information, visit