Styrax japonica japanese snowbell

Top 5 Most Common Tree Problems and Solutions

Noticed brown leaves on your tree? Or perhaps your tree doesn’t seem to be growing much this year?

We’re here to help figure out what problem may be plaguing your tree. After caring for nearly every kind of tree over the last 135 years, we’re masters at identifying the most common tree problems.

Best of all, we have solutions for you! Scroll on to learn more. If you’re looking for more personalized info, hop over to our plant health care program page.

1. Lack of Mineral Recycling and Nutrients

Problem: Trees in our landscape frequently suffer from a lack of nutrients. In the forest, trees enjoy the benefits of nutrient-rich soil from decomposing leaves.

  • In our yard, we remove fallen leaves, twigs, and bark. While this keeps our yard tidy, it also prevents these beneficial nutrients from being recycled into the soil.
  • Plus, trees are often surrounded by grass, which outcompetes trees for available nutrients and water.

Solutions: Add nutrition back to the soil.

  • Know when to fertilize your tree.
  • Mulch your tree properly. As your organic mulch breaks down, it replenishes the soil with nutrients and microorganisms.

2. Compacted Soils

Problem: In our yards, trees often grow in compacted soil.

  • Our yard is our backyard getaway. We run, play, walk, and enjoy our yard constantly.
  • All that foot traffic, along with lawn mowers and construction projects, creates soil compaction. Plus, major soil compaction occurred when your house was built, so if your home is newer, it’s likely you’ll see this problem.
  • Compacted soil leads to stressed soil, crushed root, and restricted root growth.

Solutions: Loosen the soil to reduce compaction and stress on trees.

  • Vertical mulching replaces soil in the root zone.

  • Mix in organic matter to amend compacted soil.

3. Opportunistic Pests

Problem: Stressed trees are more likely to be targeted by some pests.

  • Often, there are three common causes of tree stress, which all boil down to a poor environment. Specifically, your tree may be planted in the wrong location, suffer from a lack of nutrients or not have access to enough resources.
  • If trees are already struggling for nutrients and compete with nearby grass, this problem is compounded.

Solutions: Spot and treat tree pests and diseases early. Also, help relieve trees’ stress by following solutions #1 and #2

  • Monitor trees for pests often.
  • Phone your local arborist for treatment advice.

4. Mechanical and Natural Damage

Problem: Lawn equipment and animals can damage our trees.

  • Deer and rabbits can do a number on your shrubs and trees.
  • Plus, as we use lawn mowers and string trimmers, we can accidentally hurt tree trunks.
  • When wounded by lawn equipment or hungry animals, these injuries interrupt trees’ spread of water and nutrients.

Solutions: Check your trees regularly while prioritizing your trees’ long-term health.

  • Inspect trees regularly to spot serious problems earlier.
  • Boost your trees’ health by mulching, fertilizing and watering.
  • Mix in organic matter to amend compacted soil.

5. Restricted Root Space

Problem: As trees grow, their expansive roots run into obstacles.

  • When we plant those tiny tree saplings, they seemed far enough from the road.
  • As trees grow, roots often spread well beyond the edges of its canopy.
  • Then, they begin to run into barriers, such as buildings, roads, and sidewalks, that limit root growth.

Solutions: Remedy the soil. Give trees the essentials. Spot problem roots.

  • Improve soil health.
  • Properly feed your tree when necessary. Water your tree during dry spells and drought.
  • See girdling roots, which grow around another root or trunk? Those restrict water and nutrients while weakening branches. Ask your arborist what you can do to fix them.

Tree Problems

Tree problems are prevalent in urban and suburban areas. These tree problems and lack of maintenance greatly reduce the lifespan of city trees. On average in the United States trees in cities only live 30 years. It gets even worse in downtown areas where trees average a lifespan of only 10 years. Compare that to rural trees and trees in forests that live 150 years on average.

This difference in lifespans comes from the human and environmental stressors trees encounter in cities. And once trees are stressed they are targeted by secondary invaders. These invaders are insects or diseases that typically only attack weakened, stressed, or old trees.

City trees have to deal with:

  • Lack of space for their roots to grow.
  • Snow salt damage.
  • lack of nutrients (when we rake leaves instead of letting them decompose we interrupt the natural cycle that creates nutrient rich soils for trees to grow in)
  • Damage from lawnmowers mowing over exposed roots and hitting their trunk.
  • Soil compaction from heavy trucks or lots of foot traffic driving over the soil

But by treating these tree problems and participating in proper maintenance you can extend the lifespan of your tree to the 150 years seen in rural areas and the forest.

Have Tree Problems? Need Help?

Or Call Us At 703.573.3029

Leaning Tree:

A leaning tree is one of the major tree problems seen in this area. Generally, trees that lean naturally over time are not a cause for concern; however, trees that lean suddenly can be a sign of structural issues. You should worry about a leaning tree when it exhibits the signs below. These signs are indicative of structural issues that may make the tree unsafe for the surrounding homeowners and property.

  • The tree suddenly begins to lean
  • Change in the lean/lean getting worse
  • Starts leaning after a storm
  • Soil around the tree is cracked or heaving
  • The tree is leaning over a high traffic area/walkway

Learn More About Leaning Trees and What To Do About Them

Tree Diseases:

Tree diseases are illnesses in trees and shrubs caused by fungi, bacteria, and environmental stress such as extreme temperatures, drought/flooding, broken branches, and pollution. Although plants have natural immune systems, there are many times where Mother Nature cannot heal the tree from diseases on your property. In these cases fungicides, antibiotics, or other forms of treatment may be applied through injections, spraying, or soil drenches to control diseases.

Tree Diseases are one of the most deadly tree problems because they can progress rapidly. As soon as you see signs that your tree is diseased call an Arborist to come take a look. If left untreated, over time the damage can become too extensive and the tree or shrub may not be able to be saved through disease treatments.

Common tree diseases include; anthracnose, leaf spot, sooty mold, honeydew, verticillium wilt, oak wilt, fire blight, dutch elm disease, bacterial leaf scorch.

Learn More About Tree Diseases

Tree Insects:

Tree insects can ravage your landscape and leave lasting damage. Different species damage trees in different ways. They can damage plants by feeding on the leaves of the trees, sucking the sap out of the tree’s leaves, or boring into the tree eating the tree’s inner tissue. Although plants have natural immune systems, there are many times where Mother Nature cannot heal the tree from insects on your property. In these cases fungicides, antibiotics, or other forms of treatment may be applied through injections, spraying, or soil drenches to control diseases.

However, not every insect is damaging some are beneficial to the eco-system. Lady bugs, for example, eat aphids which can often destroy trees and plants. Our Certified Arborists will be able to identify and differentiate Beneficial Insects on your property from damaging insects. Once identified, our Arborists will create a customized plan to provide a solution to your tree problems.

Learn More About Tree Insects

Tree Fungus:

Tree Fungus is one of the most common spring tree problems. When fungal spores come in contact with a susceptible host they begin to grow, enter, and feed on the tree or shrub. Tree fungi are separated into four categories, root and butt rot, canker, foliar/shoot, and wilts.

1) Root rot is caused by fungi that are found in the soil and attack the roots of plants.
2) Cankers are caused by fungi that commonly enter the tree through wounds in the bark or branch stubs.
3) Foliar fungi are the most common, caused by fungi that attack the leaves of the tree or shrub interrupting photosynthesis.
4) Wilt diseases are caused by fungi that invade a tree’s vascular system. With the vascular system compromised the tree cannot transport water and nutrients throughout itself.

Not all fungi growing on your tree are harmful; some do not affect the tree at all while others are even beneficial. It’s best to have an arborist diagnose what type of fungus is growing on your tree. The arborist will be able to let you know if the fungus is harmful and be able to recommend appropriate treatments.

Learn More About Tree Fungus

Exposed Tree Roots:

One of the most easily spotted tree problems is roots that are above ground. Exposed tree roots may look cool in photos; however, most homeowners know they are trip hazards, make mowing difficult, and an eyesore. What most homeowners don’t know is that exposed tree roots are also bad for the tree. When the roots are exposed to the elements they can be scalded by the sun, trampled by foot traffic, and have trouble retaining moisture, which is why it’s important to fix exposed tree roots. But before you learn how to fix these exposed roots, it’s best to learn how they became exposed in the first place.

Roots are naturally found in the top 6 to 12 inches of the ground; however, they can become exposed if they are forced to by the outside forces like erosion and lack of space.

Erosion: Rain, stormwater runoff, and wind can erode the soil around the tree leaving the roots exposed. This is especially common when trees are planted on hills or slopes.

Lack Of Space: Trees planted in confined spaces may not have enough space for its roots. When the growing roots encounter obstacles such as sidewalks, pavement, or buildings they may start growing closer to the surface and even start to crack pavements and sidewalks.

Maple trees and fast growing shade trees are prone to having exposed roots. If you are planting one of these types of trees take precaution to make sure the tree is planted in soil that won’t erode and that has enough room for roots. Over the years, most old trees will naturally develop some exposed roots as well.

Learn How To Fix Exposed Tree Roots

Tree Sap:

Many homeowners have trouble with sap dripping off of their trees onto their cars and walkways. This sticky substance can be difficult to remove, accumulate dirt, and attract flies and other annoying insects.

What most homeowners will be surprised to learn is that this sticky substance isn’t sap at all. The substance is Honeydew, and despite the name it has no relation to the fruit. Honeydew is the excrement of plant sucking insects such as aphids, lace bugs, and certain types of scale. Trees do not drip sap from their leaves. If you have “sap” dripping from your tree it is honeydew and is a telltale sign of an insect infestation. Honeydew by itself may be annoying and a hassle but will typically not hurt your tree. The real issue comes from the fact that a fungus called Sooty Mold will begin to develop on Honeydew.

Insect infestations that lead to honeydew are frequently found on rose, ash, oak, elm, maple, willow, and fruit trees.

Learn More About Tree Sap, Honeydew, & Sooty Mold

Soil Compaction:

In most urban and suburban areas the soils are very compacted, typically due to construction or high traffic which is why soil management is so important. For example in forests, the top 6 inches of soil is 50% oxygen. However; the average urban soil is only 10% oxygen. This lack of oxygen and pore space doesn’t allow enough water, oxygen, or nutrients to reach the tree’s roots. This can create major tree problems including lack of root growth and decline of overall tree health.

Symptoms of Compaction:

  • Overall decline in the tree’s health
  • Canopy dieback
  • Presence of Secondary invaders(insects & diseases)
  • Areas under the canopy where grass doesn’t grow

Compaction can be fixed by a process called aeration. We use high-velocity air tools and techniques to properly aerate the tree’s critical root zone (CRZ) loosening the soil. This creates macro and micropore space, making room for root growth.

Learn More About Soil Compaction

If you are having issues with your tree it’s best to have an arborist come out to diagnose and evaluate the situation. Call us at 703.573.3029 or book an appointment online to have an Arborist come out and solve your tree problems.

The Top 6 Most Common Tree Issues & How to Solve Them

As you probably know, there are many, many different pests and diseases that can plague your trees. We are going to be looking at six of the most common tree issues and how you can easily solve them.

The Soil is Compacted

Our first extremely common issue to consider is the fact that your trees may be growing in compacted soil.

Since you most likely spend a lot of time outside, especially if you have kids, your soil is being compacted by the playing, walking, running, etc. Your soil is getting quite a bit of foot traffic, on top of any heavy machinery like lawn mowers or construction projects that may be going on.

Also, if you have a newer house, a lot of soil compaction will have occured during the building on your home.

Why is this an issue? Compacted soil actually leads to restricted root growth (which we will discuss in more depth later), as well as crushed roots, and/or stressed soil.

There are some fairly simple solutions to this problem, luckily. By manually loosening the soil, you are reducing the compaction and strain on your trees and their roots.

You can simply mix in organic matter to loosen up the compacted soil, or you can try vertical mulching, which replaces the soil in the root zone.

There are also some simple ways to prevent this from happening in the future as well, here are some solutions.

Lack of Nutrients

Next on our list is your trees simply not getting the nutrients that they need to grow and thrive correctly. With natural trees in the forest, trees are given additional nutrients from the decomposing leaves that aren’t swept away. Since most people rake away debris in their yards, your trees aren’t able to get those natural nutrients that seep into the soil.

To solve this, you will simply have to add food to the soil for your trees.

Know when you should be fertilizing your trees, and make sure that you do it. Also make sure that you are mulching your trees properly, because the organic mulch will break down and provide your trees with nutrients.


Another very common issue are pests that will take advantage of any weakness your trees have.

If you have trees that are already stressed, pests may target them specifically. Stress in trees can be caused by being planted in a bad location, no access to nutrients, no water, etc. Keeping your tree happy and healthy will also help to keep pests away.

Be aware of any pests and tree diseases, and keep a sharp eye out for them. Treat any issues as early as you can to make sure the problem is completely taken care of. Also make sure to take note of our other common tree issues on this list so your tree isn’t stressed or starved for nutrients.

If you are unsure of what the proper treatment is for the pest in question, contact us or your favorite local arborist for advice.

Man-Made Damage

Any big machines like lawn mowers, weed eaters, and string trimmers can accidentally damage tree trunks. When trees do get hurt by lawn equipment or other machines, it can actually interrupt the trees’ spread of nutrients and water.

To solve this issue, check on your trees regularly. If you see any noticeable damage, make sure to contact an expert to receive the proper treatment for the issue.

Natural Damage

The same goes for any damage from wildlife or other aspects of nature.

Deer and rabbits can cause serious damage to your shrubs and trees, and precautions should be taken to keep them away from your landscaping.

This also applies for intense storms and/or rainfall. If you have trees that are damaged, make sure to prune them properly or hire a professional to do so.

No Space to Grow

The last issue we are going to tackle today is the roots of your trees running out of space.

As trees grow, their roots expand as well. If the location of the tree is poorly planned, it can cause serious issues when the roots begin to stretch.

By properly feeding your tree, watering the tree correctly, and doing all you can to improve the health of their soil, you will also be familiar enough with the tree to spot any problem roots. If you have some that have the potential to cause some serious damage or issues, contact a professional arborist for advice.

Basically, it is important to be very mindful of your trees and the needs that they have. If you see anything unusual or dangerous, contact a professional as early as you can. Nothing is more important than keeping you safe and your trees healthy!

Japanese Snowbell Growing: Tips On Japanese Snowbell Tree Care

Japanese snowbell trees are easy to care for, compact, spring-blooming trees. Because of all these things, they are perfect for moderate sized, low maintenance beautifying in places such as parking lot islands and along property borders. Keep reading to learn more Japanese snowbell information, such as planting Japanese snowbell trees and subsequent Japanese snowbell care.

Japanese Snowbell Information

Japanese snowbell trees (Styrax japonicus) are native to China, Japan, and Korea. They are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8a. They grow slowly to a height of 20 to 30 feet, with a spread of 15 to 25 feet.

In late spring or early summer, usually in May and June, they produce mildly

fragrant white flowers. The flowers appear in clusters of small five petaled bells the show up very clearly as they hang down below the upward growing foliage. The flowers are replaced in summer by green, olive-like fruits that are long lasting and pleasant.

Japanese snowbell trees are deciduous, but they’re not especially showy in the fall. In autumn, the leaves turn yellow (or occasionally red) and drop. Their most impressive season is spring.

Japanese Snowbell Care

Caring for a Japanese snowbell tree is very easy. The plant prefers partial shade in the warmer zones of its hardy climate (7 and 8), but in cooler areas, it can handle full sun.

It does best in somewhat acidic, peaty soil. The ground should be kept moist with frequent watering, but not allowed to get soggy.

Only some varieties are hardy down to zone 5, and they should be planted in a spot that’s sheltered from the winter winds.

Over time, the tree will grow up into an attractive spreading pattern. No real pruning is required, though you will probably want to remove the lowest branches as it matures to make way for pedestrian traffic or, even better, a bench underneath it.

Crucial care for Japanese Snowbell

Q. I was recently given a Japanese Snowbell tree as a gift. How should I care for it? What are some tips for newly planted trees?

A. The Japanese Snowbell tree, Styrax japonicus, is known for its fragrant early summer flowers, making it the perfect small tree to be planted near a patio or pathway. It is slow growing and can reach 20-30 feet tall and wide. The decadent white bell-shaped flowers provide the perfect accent to most landscapes.

When planting any new tree, there are a few steps you can follow to ensure vigorous growth and a healthy tree for years to come. These steps include observing the yard for a planting space, watering, mulching, fertilizing, staking and pruning.

When deciding where you want to place the tree, as with every other plant, it is very important to consider the amount of sunlight it will receive. This particular tree requires partial to full sun, so make sure it isn’t going in a shady area. It is also very important to consider the amount of shade the tree will produce and the shadow it will cast on your existing plants.

One of the most crucial aspects of planting a new tree is watering. When a tree is first planted, it enters what is called the Root Growth Phase. Because the roots have not yet entered the existing soil, canopy growth is limited, and the tree will expend most of its energy attempting to expand its root system. This process is when the tree is most susceptible to drought, insects and diseases and typically lasts about 2-3 years. A regular watering schedule will aid this process and help keep the tree on the right track. Watering can be reduced once the Styrax tree has established.

Mulching is very important to maintain healthy and happy plants. Three to four inches of mulch will help moderate soil temperature, conserve moisture and help prevent the growth of new weeds. Mulch will also reduce damage to the trunk caused by string trimmers and mowers. Remember to keep mulch away from resting against the base of the trunk.

Fertilization is typically not recommended until after the tree has completed the Root Growth Phase. If applied too early, the nitrogen in the fertilizer will attribute to an expansion of the canopy, which will take energy away from growing an extensive root system. It is always recommended to get a soil test done before applying any additive to the soil.

Occasionally (but not normally) trees may require support until the root system can develop. Stakes should be used if the tree is flimsy or if it is planted in a windy area. This will assist upwards growth and prevent the tree from leaning or uprooting. The stakes should not be fastened too rigidly and can be removed after 1-2 years.

In order to shape the growth, Japanese Snowbell can be pruned. It is best to do this in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. The lower branches of the Styrax japonicus can be pruned to give it more of a tree shape. If the lower branches are left intact it can make the tree look more like an oversized shrub.

Following these steps will help the tree transition to its new home and will help it live to its full growth potential.

— Jagger Javenes is summer horticulture intern at Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County.

Japanese Snowbell

Japanese Snowbell Tree

Japanese snowbell tree is e prized for its graceful spreading canopy and waxy white or pink bell-shape spring flowers. But this small deciduous tree also has a showy trunk and branch structures, dark green foliage through summer, and gray fruit (drupes) from late summer through late fall. It makes it a wonderful addition to a patio garden or landscape bed. Planting it alongside a curb adds grace, beauty, and welcome shade to a street scene.

genus name
  • Styrax
  • Part Sun,
  • Sun
plant type
  • Tree
  • 20 feet or more
  • To 30 feet wide
flower color
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Spring Bloom
special features
  • Fragrance
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9
  • Stem Cuttings

Japanese Snowbell Care Must-Knows

Thoughtfully select the planting spot for Japanese snowbell because it’s known to tolerate a less-than-ideal site for a few years then abruptly die. It needs rich, well-drained acidic soil, full sun or part shade, and protection from strong wind. This tree’s branches grow horizontally so give it room to spread.

Plant a new tree like a pro with these tips.

Japanese snowbell tree won’t tolerate drought. They require consistently moist, but not soggy, soil for good growth. Water young trees regularly during their first year. When nature fails to provide at least an inch of rain in a week, supply 10 gallons of water to the plant’s root zone. Spread a 2-inch-thick layer of mulch over the root zone to prevent soil-moisture loss. Watering can be reduced or eliminated in the second growing season. Fertilize the tree with a general-purpose fertilizer before new growth begins in spring.

Japanese snowbell tree is slow growing and requires little pruning other than to remove lower branches so pedestrians can walk under the canopy. Late winter or early spring is the best time to prune.

See the best way to prune trees here.

More Varieties Of Japanese Snowbell

Fragrant snowbell

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Styrax obassia is a wild form with smaller, white flowers and a more columnar habit than most snowbells. It features great fall color and grows 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Zones 6-8.

‘Pink Chimes’ snowbell

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Styrax japonicus ‘Pink Chimes’ bears pale pink flowers in late spring and early summer. It grows 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide. Zones 6-8.

Styrax japonicus

  • Attributes: Genus: Styrax Species: japonicus Family: Styracaceae Country Or Region Of Origin: China to Japan and N. Philippines Wildlife Value: Flowers attract bees, hummingbirds, birds, and other pollinators. Play Value: Attractive Flowers Attracts Pollinators Fragrance Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): Problem free flowering tree. Dimensions: Height: 20 ft. 0 in. – 30 ft. 0 in. Width: 20 ft. 0 in. – 30 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Tree Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Habit/Form: Broad Horizontal Rounded Spreading Vase Growth Rate: Medium Texture: Fine
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Brown/Copper Gray/Silver Display/Harvest Time: Fall Summer Fruit Type: Drupe Fruit Description: Fruit is an ovoid, dry drupe, gray-white pendulous, 1-seeded.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Pink White Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Shape: Bell Flower Petals: 4-5 petals/rays Flower Size: < 1 inch Flower Description: Flowers are white, slightly fragrant, and campanulate. They are <1 inch and born on short lateral shoots on long pedicels. The corolla is 5-lobed and united near base; stamens yellow; pedicel 1.5″ long. Styrax obasia has more fragrant flowers.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Deciduous Leaf Color: Gold/Yellow Green Leaf Feel: Glossy Deciduous Leaf Fall Color: Gold/Yellow Red/Burgundy Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Elliptical Oblong Leaf Margin: Entire Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 1-3 inches Leaf Width: < 1 inch Leaf Description: Leaves are alternate and simple. They are broad-elliptic to elliptic-oblong, acuminate, cuneate. They are shallowly toothed, and dark glossy green. They are 1″-3″ long and 1″ wide.
  • Bark: Bark Color: Dark Brown Dark Gray Orange Surface/Attachment: Ridges Smooth Bark Description: Gray brown with orange attractive interlacing fissures
  • Stem: Stem Color: Brown/Copper Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Form: Zig Zags Stem Description: Stems are light brown, zig-zag, leaf scars 2-ranked; irregular orange-brown fissures.
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Lawn Patio Recreational Play Area Slope/Bank Landscape Theme: Children’s Garden Pollinator Garden Winter Garden Design Feature: Border Flowering Tree Small groups Attracts: Bees Hummingbirds Songbirds Resistance To Challenges: Salt

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