We talk a lot about recognizing the signs that a tree is unhealthy, needs help, or should be removed for the sake of safety. So let’s switch gears and talk about the signs of a healthy tree. What should you look for, when assessing your trees, and how can you be assured that your trees are doing well?
The trunk is sound. A tree’s trunk should be free of obvious damage, with no loose or peeling bark. You should not spot fungus growing here, either.
Branches are healthy and unbroken. If you notice branches that are obviously dead, this could be a sign of a systemic issue. Broken branches could pose a danger and might attract pests that will later infect the entire tree.
One central leader. As young trees grow, they should be pruned to have one central leading branch. This creates stability and prevents splitting in the future. Of course, there are some species in which more than one leader is the norm, so consult your tree professional about pruning before committing to the job.
Evidence of growth. Scars on branches can show you where last year’s buds were located, which you can then compare to current buds. While different species grow at different rates, some evidence of growth should be apparent each year.
Full foliage. Your tree should not show bare patches (except, of course, when leaves begin to fall from deciduous trees during autumn). Bare spots can indicate a number of problems, such as pests, disease, lack of water and nutrients, improper pruning, or even pesticide damage.
No evidence of wilting. When leaves and stems lose their rigidity and begin to droop, this can indicate disease, too much or too little sunlight, drought, or even over-watering.
Leaves are the correct color, shape, and size. Take note what the leaves are supposed to look like, and compare with your own tree. Significant variation in leaf appearance (from what is expected) can indicate something is wrong.
Your tree flowers and fruits as expected. Some young fruit trees might not produce for the first few years. Other than that, a tree that does not flower or produce fruit as expected is probably suffering a nutrient imbalance, pests, or something else.
If your trees check out, that means you’re doing a great job taking care of them. But if you do suspect something is wrong, call an expert right away. In many cases a few adjustments can help your tree to regain its health, and prevent a loss.