Early Care Sets Trees Up for Success

Updated: Apr 20

By John Sepulveda, Certified Arborist WI-1454A


From the moment trees are planted there are steps you can take to set them up for a healthy and long life. Good care starts at planting. Making sure the tree is planted correctly will help to avoid problems in the future. A tree that is planted too low or too high will be more prone to unnecessary stress that will make it an easier target for disease or pests. Trees planted too low can be susceptible to rot in the lower trunk, to limited essential gas exchange, and growth of stem girdling roots that will damage the tree in time. Plant a tree too high and it can damage the root plate, root flare and create an unstable tree. After planting, make sure the tree is situated properly and well supported. If necessary, install stakes and loose ties to help prevent leaning, which can affect the tree’s growth later in life. Then, water well.


The next step in caring for your young tree is to schedule or perform structural pruning every two to three years to promote good branch structure. The timing can vary with different types of trees, and one of Hoppe’s certified arborists can always answer questions about this.


Some trees are prone to poor structure if they are allowed to grow unrestricted. Trees like lindens, some maples, and Callery pears can develop weak branch unions in the inner canopy, which can lead to branches dying and branch failure. This tree defect is called bark inclusion. Included bark occurs where two limbs grow close to each other and create a weak spot that is prone to ripping and decay. Starting structural pruning when the tree is young will help prevent failures due to weak branch unions.


As your tree grows into a young adult tree it is important to keep up with structural pruning to reduce formation of codominant leads. Codominant leads are branches that have grown at a relatively close rate to the point where either one could take over and be the main stem. Included bark can form with codominant leads, and as noted before, can leave the tree more prone to failure as it grows. They also become trickier to remove as the tree gets older, particularly if the branches are allowed to grow for too long. Issues caught early can be corrected with minimal damage to the tree. The longer that suspect branches are allowed to grow, the larger the wound will be when one of the leads is pruned and the larger the gap in the remaining canopy. Good structure also helps by training the tree to focus energy on growing in a desired direction, away from obstacles such as houses and buildings. Overall, being proactive in tree care for growth and structure will help you get the most out of your tree and aid in keeping it around for generations to come.


Hoppe is a full-circle tree care company celebrating its 50th year of excellent service to southeastern Wisconsin customers. We have a team of certified arborists and plant health care technicians on staff to provide expert tree services, from planting to pruning to prevention and treatment of insect and disease issues. If you would like an inspection of your trees or are considering planting new trees in your yard, give us a call at 414.257.2111 to schedule a visit by a Hoppe certified arborist.


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