Top 10 Tree MythsReading time: 9 minutes
Humans have made up tales and followed home remedies for just about everything for thousands of years. Need to get rid of hiccups? Let someone scare you. Got a stomach ache? Ginger Ale will take care of that. Tree care myths are no different.
You’ve heard of cutting, pruning, and fertilization. Maybe you’ve even wondered if topping is a good choice for your trees. So you came to the internet. A quick search will give you thousands of results – quickly becoming overwhelming. This may leave you feeling like you don’t know where to start.
Below, we’ve gathered some common myths about tree care and are breaking them down to help you understand what you should and shouldn’t do when you start regular tree care services.
What Makes Tree Care Myths So Common?
There are many reasons people propagate and share myths about tree care. Some are more insidious than others, so it’s essential to understand the reasons behind tree myths and how they spread.
Some of the most common reasons there are so many myths about tree care include:
- Lack of Knowledge – Since many folks don’t understand how trees grow or what they need to thrive, they’re more likely to believe myths handed down from generation to generation.
- Misinformation – With easy internet access, misinformation can spread quickly. This means that unreliable sources can share information that gets noticed by many different people and then spread insidiously.
- Marketing Tactics – A company may seek to sell their products or services by promoting a tree myth even if there is no evidence to support the product.
Understanding why some myths become so prevalent is helpful as you ensure you have the best information to care for your trees and lawn long term.
Green Drop’s List of Top 10 Tree Myths
With so many trees and tree care myths, we wanted to compile the ones we see the most often. This list contains information and tips to help you be better informed about caring for your trees.
Staking Trees is the Only Way to Develop Strong Root Systems and Trunks
When a tree is newly planted, sometimes it’s necessary to stake it to keep them upright and help them get established. But, this can also lead to adverse effects like the tree growing bigger above a tie than below it. That means the staking wire or ties could damage the trunk. Best practices indicate that staking materials should be removed after one year to avoid tree girdling.
Another downside to staking is that the trunk of a tree may become weak when the stake is removed, meaning the tree can’t stand upright. It’s worth noting that unstaked trees tend to develop a more extensive root system and better trunk taper than trees that have been staked.
Additionally, a small amount of movement can help root and trunk development. When a tree is unstaked, its root system can spread, allowing it to move more.
We don't recommend the practice since trees can weaken because of staking. Avoiding it saves you the expenses and time that come with staking.
Tree Wrap is Necessary to Prevent Sunscald and Insects on New Trees
You might have been told to wrap your tree in the winter when it’s new or to prevent sunscald. Still, studies using the most common tree wraps have shown that they do not prevent extreme temperature fluctuations in the bark. In some cases, the temperature extremes are worse.
Many tree wraps also prove to be relatively ineffective in preventing insect entry. Some insects like to burrow under it because it offers protection. Since many people leave their wraps on too long, they risk damaging their trees. So we recommend avoiding wraps because they aren’t the most effective way to maintain young trees over the winter months.
When Planting a New Tree, Offset Root Loss with Heavy Tree Pruning
Planting a new tree in your yard is a great way to add to your lawn’s aesthetic, but you’ll often hear that you should prune it heavily because you’re losing roots. In reality, it’s best to leave your tree unpruned so it can get established.
You can prune the top to reduce water evaporation from the leaves, but the tree still needs a full crown to produce the nutrients and hormones it needs to grow. Letting the leaves remain gives you more opportunities for the tree to bounce back. Then it can more quickly develop the robust and extensive root system it needs. But it needs a fuller crown to do that.
However, we recommend pruning if you have damaged branches or need to train the tree to grow better structurally. This will save you from problems down the road, so don’t be afraid of pruning entirely.
Flush Cutting During Branch Removal Is Essential for Healing
While humans heal when they get cut, trees do not heal the same way. Instead of scabs and new skin that eventually is as good as new, trees develop woundwood over the affected area. This allows the tree to compartmentalize the wound and cover the exposed part of the tree.
You may be encouraged to flush-cut an area when pruning your trees. This type of cutting removes the branch collar and creates a larger wound than it would otherwise. Additionally, some of the main, or parent, branch tissue will likely need removal.
Flush cutting removes a tree’s natural defences, so they aren’t able to form callus as easily. It can also increase the spread of decay inside a tree, so it’s best to avoid a flush cut if possible.
Wound Dressings Are Needed After Pruning
You’ve likely heard of tree wound dressings before. Often, they are petroleum-based products that act as a sealant meant to keep fungus and insects away from a tree. These products have been criticized for many years, and most professionals will tell you that you shouldn’t use them.
This is because the dressing can slow the healing process. You’ll find that the painting over the wounds can seal in moisture and decay, limiting a tree's natural ability to heal itself. That’s why it’s best to allow the tree to heal independently.
Tree Topping Must be Done on Fast-Growing, Weak-Wooded Trees
Trees like Silver Maples or Siberian Elms tend to grow quickly but aren’t as strong as other types of trees. That’s why you’ll likely hear about tree topping in connection with them. But topping your trees can weaken them in the long run.
You may reduce the potential hazards at first, but these trees can become more dangerous in the future. This is because topping stimulates twig growth below the cuts, and the development of many vigorous shoots leads to branches with weak attachments.
Additionally, topping limits a tree’s ability to produce energy and get it to every part of the tree. Over time, that can cause more long-term health problems for a tree. Because of this, you’re more likely to see decay spread through the stubs and branches topped. After 2-5 years, the topped tree should have regained any height lost, but the tree is likely to become less aesthetically pleasing than it used to be.
It’s best to avoid tree topping altogether unless you plan to remove a tree. This harmful practice will only lead to weaker, uglier trees and won’t help you keep your yard looking its best. Alternatives like thinning, cabling, tree removal, and tree replacement will help keep your yard looking its best.
Pruning Trees in Early Spring Causes Bleeding and Health Problems
While it’s true that some trees will bleed or lose sap from pruning cuts made early in the spring, this bleeding does not hurt the tree. Some species of trees that experience this are maples and birches, and their sap loss is inconsequential.
There are a few exceptions, but most routine pruning can occur at any time of year. When the tree is dormant is the best time to undertake pruning, so late winter and early spring. This helps you avoid too much bleeding.
While tree bleeding isn’t necessarily an issue, it’s helpful to avoid it as much as possible to keep your trees healthy. Additionally, pruning just after bloom this year can help maximize flowering next year.
The Root System of a Tree Mirrors the Top of the Tree
When people look at a tree, most envision a large, branching taproot growing deep into the soil. The reality is that taproots are very uncommon in mature trees. If they develop, they generally end up forced into horizontal growth after encountering hard subsoils under the ground’s surface.
Most trees' entire root systems can be found within 3 feet of soil. But, the spread of the root system can be extensive. Usually, it spreads out irregularly and ends up as an area 2-3 times larger than the tree's crown.
Trees Require Deep Root Fertilization to Access the Root System
By definition, deep root fertilization injects fertilizer with specialized equipment that uses high pressure in the soil around a tree’s roots. Many arborists recommend this process to help struggling trees. That’s because most trees’ fibrous, absorbing roots are in the top 8 inches of their planted soil.
Since water and oxygen are the most readily available here, that’s where the majority of tree roots spread out. There are deep root fertilization treatments that go 12-18” into the soil, which is too deep for it to be effective. So while there’s nothing wrong with getting into the roots, it’s important not to waste the treatment when it can’t help your trees.
Cutting the Crown of a Tree is Mandatory After Major Root Loss
While it’s regularly recommended to cut back the crown of a tree when it’s suffered from significant root loss, research doesn’t necessarily support it. It has been shown that unpruned trees can bounce back better than pruned trees.
When you cut back branches on a tree, you reduce the ability of the tree to produce food and energy, so it can’t recover as quickly. So while the tree will likely lose some branches due to the root damage, it’s best to let that happen naturally. Then, with the help of an arborist, you can make an educated decision about the tree and pruning done as hazard reduction.
Understanding Tree Care Myths Helps You Learn Better Ways to Care for Your Trees
While it’s easy to take what you hear at face value when it comes to lawn and tree care, you don’t want to ignore the advice of real professionals. So, when a question arises, it’s vital to cover all your bases and do your research. This awareness will help you keep your trees looking their best.
Since most of us want to keep our lawns in shape, you can turn to an arborist for best practices and correct information. A credited arborist can guide you about best practices and determine if your trees are at risk.
Additionally, it means that while you search for the perfect match, you want to seek accredited sites and professional services. These ensure you have the info you need to make the best decisions. They aren’t just selling a product or service.
Green Drop Keeps Your Trees and Lawn Beautiful
The team at Green Drop knows that your trees are an essential part of your lawn's ecosystem. That’s why our passionate arborists can assist with any questions and guide you about the best tree services for your yard.
Whatever you’re looking for, we have the personnel to meet your needs and make the search for the right tree care more straightforward than ever. Have a question? Ready for a tree care assessment?
Reach out to us today and get a free estimate!