Signs of Drought Stress in Trees

September 4, 2019
September 4, 2019 Ryan McFadgen

Signs of Drought Stress in Trees

We tend to experience droughts in our area, every few years or so. Luckily we aren’t confronting that situation at the moment, but we’ve just seen the end of a long drought which could return at any time. So it’s always good to know the signs of drought stress in trees, and to learn what you can do about it. This is one of the most common problems in trees, but also one of the most preventable.

If you observe the following symptoms in a tree, drought stress might be to blame:

  • Wilting of the leaves, which usually starts at the top of the tree
  • Leaves turn yellow when they aren’t supposed to (chlorosis)
  • The canopy begins to thin
  • Leaves turn brown starting at the outside, moving inward (marginal necrosis)

Many homeowners believe that since they’ve installed a state-of-the-art irrigation system in their yard, their trees couldn’t possibly experience drought stress. But actually, this isn’t always true. While regular watering is likely to help to some degree, trees in irrigated yards can still experience drought stress, and here’s why:

The system is optimized for grass maintenance. Less than twenty minutes of water release each day might be sufficient for some lawns. However, watering for this length of time is likely to saturate only about the top inch of soil. That’s not long enough to water deep to a tree’s roots.

The system might not even cover your tree. Depending upon the design of your irrigation system, there might not be a discharge head close enough to each tree.

The system can malfunction. Even if it has worked well in the past, sudden signs of drought stress in a tree could be a warning that your irrigation system needs repair. It might be as simple as a clog or disconnected line somewhere.

You’re over-watering. Oddly enough, the signs of over-watering can actually mimic drought stress. If you’re running the irrigation system more than usual lately, and you begin to notice signs of drought stress, you might actually need to reduce your system’s watering time.

Okay, so that last tip might seem a bit confusing. If you’re trying to figure out what’s going on with your tree(s), give us a call. We can take a look, assess damages, and help you decide how to proceed. Hopefully, together we can save your tree.


We welcome you to contact us for more information
about any of our products or services. Feel free to use the form below,
send us an email, or give us a call.