Early Fall Foliage Means Your Tree Is Stressed

Early Fall FoliageFor the past few weeks, our Arborists have noted a good amount of trees that have already started changing colors and losing their leaves. Most homeowners see this as a sign of early fall; however, our arborists warn that early fall color is a cry for help.

In our area, you typically will start seeing the leaves turn at the beginning of October, hitting their peak right before the onset of November. Leaves changing color and dropping early in the year (September) is most likely a sign that your tree is sick/stressed. When trees are stressed, suffering from an insect infestation, or infected with a disease, they may stop producing chlorophyll. This speeds up the tree’s seasonal process making the leaves turn fall colors and drop earlier than usual.

Common Stressors That Could Be Causing Early Leaf Drop:

On top of insects infestation and diseases, the stressors below can lead to early leaf drop.

  • Heat stress
  • Sunscald
  • Trunk injuries from mowers
  • Lack of water
  • Lack of nutrients
  • Soil Compaction

Is Your Tree Showing Early Fall Foliage? 

Or Call 703.573.3029

4 Things to Do If Your Tree Is Stressed:

These 4 steps are the most important steps of Fall tree care. They will help combat your tree’s stressors, keep your tree healthy, and prepare your tree for the winter season.

Early Fall FoliageFeed With Bio-Stimulants: “If you are only able to do one thing for your tree this year, do a Fall bio-stimulant treatment.” recommends Kevin Sullivan, our Plant Health Care Division Leader. Bio-Stimulants contain a natural blend of sugars, bacteria, humic acid, sea kelp extract, and fungi. This mix feeds the soil and naturally fertilizes the tree. By introducing this blend to the critical root zone it will re-establish good soil composition and act as a multi-vitamin for your tree.  Fertilizing your trees with bio-stimulants strengthens the tree’s immune system and is one of the best preventative measures to keep your tree from getting sick.

Mulch: Applying mulch around trees is one of the best things you can do for the health of your trees. Especially for young trees, mulching is a quick and cost-effective technique that protects the tree’s roots from the cold, helps retain soil moisture and organic matter. Just make sure you don’t make one of the 5 Most Common Mulching Mistakes.

Protect From Borers: At this time of year, borers are looking for stressed trees to enter and spend their winter in. When you apply a fall dormant oil spray it suffocates the overwintering insects before they have a chance to spread and damage your trees and shrubs in the spring.

Water: Although the summer heat has passed your tree can still suffer drought stress and may be recovering from the heat stress the summer caused. Make sure your trees are hydrated.

Watering Tips For Fall Tree Care:

  • Focus on the critical root zone when watering. Wetting foliage is pointless and can promote the spread of diseases.
    • DON’T use a sprinkler. This only wets the top layer of soil and doesn’t properly water the tree.
    • Water in the morning to avoid evaporation and to help trees deal with the heat throughout the day.
    • Water deeply and thoroughly 1 to 2 times a week.
      • Put your normal hose somewhere in the critical root zone.
      • Turn 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.


If your tree is already showing fall color have an arborist take a look to see what’s wrong. An arborist will be able to prescribe a customized plan to solve your tree’s stress issue. Call Us at 703.573.3029 or book an appointment online.

One thought on “Early Fall Foliage Means Your Tree Is Stressed”

  1. Brenda Hawthorne says:

    When the arborist was last at my property he said he would ask someone to come and blow out the soil compaction around several trees. Am I scheduled?

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