Busted! 7 Most Common Tree Care Myths Debunked

With so much information in the world today it is hard for homeowners to figure out what is true and what is not, especially in a complicated industry such as tree care. There are a lot of unsafe practices and wives tales out there that are outdated and dangerous to trees and the people who live in their proximity. Don’t get fooled by the 7 tree care myths below.

Myth 1: All Insects Are Bad For Trees

Beneficial Insect Release

Many homeowners think it’s a bad sign when they see any type of insect on their tree. But there are many insects that are good for your tree and protect it from bad insects. These types of insects are called Beneficial Insects in the tree care industry. One of the most commonly known beneficial insects is the ladybug. Ladybugs feed on aphids and other creatures that harm your trees. There are even Beneficial Insect Release programs that use good insects to fight the bad ones on your property instead of using chemicals.

Learn More About Beneficial Insect Release Programs

Myth 2: Tree Cavities Should Be Filled 

It is a popular belief that filling tree cavities with tar or concrete is the proper treatment to keep the tree structurally sound but it’s actually the opposite. Filling tree cavities with tar or concrete can further damage trees making them less structurally sound and more likely to fall. Trees sway and twist over time causing the concrete/tar filling to continuously rub the inside surface of the tree. This weakens the tree’s inner walls and allows decay to spread. Since these materials do not bond with wood, resulting gaps pave way for trapping moisture. The combination of moisture and darkness creates an environment for fungi to thrive.

Myth 3: Deciduous Trees Drip Sap

Many homeowners have trouble with sap dripping off of their trees in the summer onto their cars and walkways. This sticky substance can be difficult to remove, accumulate dirt, and attract flies and other annoying insects.

What most homeowners will be surprised to learn is that this sticky substance isn’t sap at all. The substance is Honeydew, and despite the name, it has no relation to the fruit. Honeydew is the excrement of plant-sucking insects such as aphids, lace bugs, and certain types of scale. Since deciduous trees don’t actually drip sap, “sap” dripping from your trees (aka honeydew) is a telltale sign of an insect infestation.

Learn More About Honeydew & How To Get Rid Of It

Myth 4: Tree Topping Is Good For Trees

Tree topping used to be commonplace decades ago; however, as arboriculture developed, research has shown it to be a very harmful practice. Tree Topping refers to removing large branches or whole tops of trees. This process stresses the tree and can lead to health decline, structural defects, and infection.

Why Not To Top Trees:

  • Starvation: Good pruning practices rarely remove more than ¼ of the crown. Removing too much of the tree’s leafy portion (topping) interferes with the tree’s ability to manufacture food.
  • Shock: When a tree’s crown is removed the remaining bark tissue, which is not usually exposed to direct rays of the sun, can sustain scalding similar to sunburn.
  • Insects & Disease: Large stubs left after being topped have a difficult time forming a callus. These stubs are highly vulnerable to insect, disease and fungi infestation.
  • Weak Limbs: New growth that sprouts after a larger limb is removed tends to be weakly attached. Weakly attached limbs are more prone to breakage and falling.
  • Rapid New Growth: Topping is typically used to control the height and spread of the tree but it has the opposite effect. The new growth that sprouts are more numerous and grow more rapidly than normal new growth. 
  • Tree Death: Some tree species, like beeches, are less tolerant to topping and will not sprout after severe trimming. These trees will likely die after being topped.
  • Ugliness: Trees are disfigured by topping. Even if the tree recovers from the topping it will never regain the character of its species.

Myth 5: The More Water The Better


Watering is very important for trees but overwatering is just as bad as underwatering. In simple terms, overwatering essentially drowns a plant’s roots. When you overwater you will end up with brown/yellow and wilted leaves, early leaf drop, and slow stunted growth. To avoid overwatering your tree follow our tips below. 

  • Water slowly 1 to 2 times a week.
    • Put your normal hose somewhere in the critical root zone.
    • Turn the hose on to a dribble
    • Leave for 2-3 hours
    • Move the hose to a different spot in the critical root zone and leave for 2-3 hours. Repeat this step 1-3 times.
  • You want the soil to be moist but not soaking. You should NOT be able to make a mud ball out of the soil.
  • It’s okay for some portions of the soil to be wet and some to be dry.

Myth 6: Trees Don’t Need Routine Maintenance

“Trees live perfectly fine in the forest without help so why do I need to care for my tree?” is a common question we get from homeowners. The answer is two-fold. First, trees die every day in the forest. It’s a natural part of forest life and competition. In fact, for every mature tree in the forest, there are many hundreds of seedlings and saplings that didn’t make it. The difference is, when a tree dies in the forest you barely notice in the grand scheme of things but when your newly planted tree in your front yard dies, you are sure to notice. Second, Urban trees actually behave differently and face different challenges than their forest counterparts. Urban trees grow faster, die faster, live in more compact soils, are injured by humans, and many are made for different climates. This all means that your trees need a little help surviving in our urban environment. 

Learn More About The Differences In Urban Trees

Myth 7: The More Mulch The Better

Mulch Volcanoes
Too Deep Of Mulch

Properly applied mulch provides a lot of benefits to your tree; however, if you use too much mulch you can actually do damage to your tree. Piling up too much mulch against a tree’s trunk is commonly referred to as a mulch volcano. Mulch volcanoes can cause increased susceptibility to insects & diseases, girdling root systems, root rot, and even rodent issues. Watch a video on the effects of mulch volcanoes. Despite its negative effects, you can see examples of mulch volcanoes in most shopping centers and front yards, as many landscapers and homeowners are guilty of this type of mulching. 

Learn More About Common Mulching Mistakes 

Need help avoiding these 7 tree care myths and keeping your trees healthy? We can help! Give us a call at 703.573.3029 or schedule an appointment using our online appointment scheduler.

One thought on “Busted! 7 Most Common Tree Care Myths Debunked”

  1. Charles B. Ross says:

    Interesting and informative

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *