FAQs & Articles

What can I do about my messy olive trees?

Trees that flower and produce fruit can be sprayed while they are flowering. You have about a 2-week window at this time. Spraying at the time of flowering sterilizes the flower and retards fruit production.

My trees are getting too tall! Should I have them topped?

NO! Topping severely injures and infects trees. The new shoots, which grow after topping, are usually long, thin, brittle and improperly attached. Unseen, but no less important, is the damage done to the root system. Deprived of foods stored in the crown of the tree, the roots cannot obtain sufficient nutrients. In the long run, topping is very expensive and creates an unsafe and unattractive tree.

What are the procedures for removing a stump from my yard?

Stump removal is performed using a stump-grinding machine, which are available at equipment rental yards. These machines actually dig out the stump as opposed to pulling it out. Alternatively, you can hire a tree service company to remove the stump for you.

I want to transplant a 5-foot palm tree. How deep are the roots, and what is the best way to dig it up?

Transplanting palm trees is relatively easy. Success rates differ based on species, so you may want to check with a local arborist about any special considerations. To dig up the palm for transplanting, you will need to “trench ” around the tree approximately 6” away from the trunk and 12-15” deep. After this is done, the root ball should break free with a good push. Place it in its new location (make sure you dig and prepare the hole prior to digging up the palm), backfill, and water immediately. Make sure you water it regularly and it should take to its new home just fine.

How long will it take a lilac tree to bloom after it has been transplanted?

It may take as long as 2 years for a newly transplanted lilac tree to resume blooming.

I am growing bamboo and am looking for root barriers to slow the root spread. What can I use?

There are many different types of root barriers available. You will want something that prevents root growth in a particular area, but still allow water and nutrients to move through the soil. Any landscape supply company should carry several choices. One that we have had good luck with is called BioBarrier®. It is a mesh-type material that has nodules of time-release root inhibitors.

I have heard that landscape companies buy full grown palm trees. Who should I contact about this?

Palm brokers and tree installation companies will often buy palms out of residential yards. Things that will be considered are: species of palm, condition, size, location, and demand for that species. Call your local arborist, landscape company or nursery for more information.

What does a eucalyptus tree prefer – sun or shade?

Most species of eucalyptus prefer full sun.

When transplanting a tree, what is the appropriate ratio of root ball diameter to trunk diameter?

The basic ratio is at least 1 foot of root ball diameter to 1 inch of trunk diameter.

Is it true that a disease is killing sycamore trees across the country?

You may be referring to a fungus called anthracnose, which commonly causes irregular dieback of leaves in the form of shriveling. It has become quite common and we rarely see a sycamore tree locally that does not have it. If the problem is not widespread on the tree, you can prune out the infected area and dispose of it (make sure you don't use it as mulch or compost as you can spread the fungus this way). If it has spread further than can be pruned, you may opt to use a fungicidal spray. However, fungicides have not proven to be too effective in controlling this problem.

1. Over thinning, topping

Removing too much live foliage from a tree or indiscriminately reducing the height of a tree to a stub can have long lasting negative effects, possibly leading to the premature death of a tree. 

2. Over watering

Applying too much water to the tree root zone, especially where drainage is poor, can cause roots to suffocate and die. Tree decline and death often follow.

3. Stakes left on too long

Tree supports should be removed as soon as a tree can stand on its own. The tree will develop a better, stronger rooting system and the chance of damage due to stakes and ties will be minimized.

4. Lack of water

Trees need adequate amounts of water to survive. Infrequent deep watering is best. If you have just planted a new tree, be sure the root ball is as thoroughly watered as the surrounding soil.

5. Fertilizing without a soil analysis

While applying fertilizer without an analysis is common practice, it is best to know what nutrients are lacking in the soil before any applications take place. In fact, an abundance of certain elements can be toxic to plants and trees.

6. Poor advice

Unfortunately, those who claim to be professionals often end up offering bad advice. Be sure you talk to a Certified Arborist, Board-Certified Master Arborist, or Consulting Arborist, and don’t be afraid to pay for a professional opinion – it will probably save you money in the long run.

7. Root bound plants and trees

Many plants and trees are purchased from nurseries in a root bound condition. This is a significant defect in young plants and trees and will often lead to death or failure years after planting.

8. Weed whip damage

Too many young trees have been irreparably damaged by aggressive weed trimmer use. Keep any turf at least 8-12 inches from a tree and this problem will be less likely to occur.

9. Root pruning

In most cases, loss of root tissue will have an effect on the overall health, and possibly the stability, of a tree. Keep in mind that the effect of root pruning may not be evident for several years.

10. Wrong tree, wrong place

There are volumes of information about putting the “right tree in the right place.” Be sure to consider all the environmental, spatial and maintenance components of a particular location for a tree before you put it in the ground.

1. Wood-boring insects

The adult or larval stages of certain insects bore in wood tissues beneath the bark. Wood-boring insects can become serious pests because they weaken limbs and trunks and can kill branches or entire trees. Examples are pine bark beetles, oak bark beetles, eucalyptus long-horned borers, and shot-hole borers in citrus trees.

2. Psyllids

Psyllids are tiny insects that feed on leaf tissue by sucking out tree juices. They produce honeydew as a sticky liquid and cause tree defoliation, often resulting in tree decline and death. The most common are Eugenia psyllids, red gum lerp psyllids, and pepper tree psyllids.

3. Scale insects

These guys are small, largely immobile “bumps” on tree and plant stems. They also feed by sucking out tree juices. Heavily infested branches may die.

4. Whiteflies

Not true flies, whiteflies are more closely related to psyllids. High populations cause leaves to yellow, shrivel and drop prematurely.

5. Aphids

These are small, soft bodied insects that suck plant juices. High populations can slow plant growth or cause leaves to yellow, curl, or drop early. Over 200 species are occasional or frequent pests of landscape plants or trees.

6. Fire blight

This is a bacterium that mainly affects ornamental pear trees in San Diego. It causes a sudden wilting, shriveling, and blackening or browning of shoots, blossoms and fruit. Prolonged serious infections can kill trees

7. Anthracnose

A fungal disease that causes irregular dead areas on leaves, it is most common on sycamore and ash trees.

8. Fusarium wilt of palms

This is a serious disease of Canary Island date palms. It is seen as abnormal dieback of fronds and overall stunted growth. Infected palms will die as there is no known remedy.

9. Sooty mold

These are dark fungi that grow on plant and tree surfaces that have become covered with insect honeydew. They are generally harmless to plants except when they are extremely abundant and prevent enough light from reaching leaf surfaces, causing plants and trees to become stressed.

10. Bacterial leaf scorch

Mainly seen on oleander trees, this disease can also affect ash, elm, mulberry, sycamore, liquidambar and olive trees. Tips of infected leaves turn yellow, brown, dry out and trees eventually die.

Location is key when planting a tree. You must consider not only the above ground structure (potential size) of the tree, but the growth that occurs below ground as well. Research the growth habits of the tree you select, then envision that tree 3-5 years from now.

Will it still be compatible with the location you've chosen? Keep in mind that the root system can grow up to three times beyond the canopy of the tree! When it has grown to its full size, will it interfere with buildings, power lines, sidewalks or other structures? Is there proper drainage in the spot you've chosen? Believe it or not, more trees die from too much water because of poor drainage, than from too little water (even in drought-ridden SoCal).

Finally, what is the condition of the soil? Is it compacted? Lacking in nutrients? Poor consistency? Usually, these situations are easily remedied. It is always wise to have your soil tested before you plant; it will save you time and money in the long run, and the tree you've invested in will have everything it needs to flourish, right from the start.

Selecting the right tree.

The topic of choosing the right tree covers such a wide range of information we couldn't possibly cover it all here. For now, keep the following in mind:

Deciduous or evergreen?

Do you want to deal with the mess of fallen leaves and/or berries? If you are planting near a pool or jacuzzi, or near an entrance to your home with white carpets, my guess would be no! All trees are messy to a certain degree, but evergreen trees like pepper and olive trees can be a clean-up nightmare. Consider carefully how much time you want to spend caring for your tree!

Verify with the nursery that the tree has been correctly identified and labeled.

It's a costly mistake that you may not realize for several years, and when you do, could result in the need for removal of the tree.

Make sure the tree is not root bound.

If you buy a new tree and find the root system has overgrown the container, return it. Strangling (girdling) the root system of a young tree can stifle the growth, hinder the health and vigor of the tree, and wreak havoc on the tree's immune system.

Digging the hole.

The size of the hole you dig greatly affects how well your tree adapts to its new home. You should only go as deep as the tree's root ball, but twice as wide. This allows for horizontal spreading of the root system, which is vital for the tree to establish itself in its new environment.

Filling the hole.

When you are back-filling (replacing the soil) around the newly planted tree, it is best to use the same soil you removed. This maintains the consistency of the nutrients available to the roots and prevents shock. It is also helpful to saturate the soil as you back-fill – this helps to compact the soil around the roots and forces the release of excess oxygen. Make sure the base of the plant extends 1 to 2 inches higher than the existing grade to allow for settling.

Tree wells.

The easiest way to water your trees, provide good saturation, and prevent run-off, is to create a water well. This is simply mounding the earth in a circle around the base of the tree, about one-third larger than the root ball. This forms a "wall" that prevents water from draining away before it is absorbed into the soil. Water wells are also easier on your water bill!

Staking.

Improper staking is like deliberately torturing a tree. Never tie the stake directly against the tree. This can cause deformation in the development in both the bark and the trunk. Other problems caused by improper staking are weak trunk development, decreased root system, and wind deformation at the top. If the tree does not need to be staked, don't do it. If the tree won't stand upright without support, then make sure it is done properly.

Place two poles (approximately 2” diameter) outside the root ball, on either side of the tree. Make sure that one pole is standing in the direction of the typical wind path. The height of the poles should be no more than two-thirds the height of the tree. Use a flexible material for the tie. Never use fishing line, wire or twine as this will cut into the trunk of the tree and cause girdling. Loop the tie material around the trunk and each of the stakes (use separate ties for each stake), forming a figure eight. Employing the figure eight tie allows the tree flexibility in movement, while still providing stability. Don't leave the tree staked longer than necessary; most trees can stand on their own after the first year. Make sure you check the tree frequently for girdling or deformation.