My Tree Is Dying From The Top Down

Canopy Decline

Canopy Decline On Trees In Different Stages

If Your Tree Is Dying From The Top Down And You Want To Know Why You’ve Come To The Right Place

The top of your tree, also known as the crown, should be the healthiest part of your tree. If your tree is dying from the top down it is experiencing a common but serious tree symptom call crown decline. Crown decline can be caused by many issues including, root stress or damage, insects, drought, and bad soil composition.

Root Stress or Damage:

If the roots are damaged by recent construction, are suffering from soil compaction, or suffering from girdling root syndrome the tree may exhibit symptoms of crown decline. Roots stress is typically the main cause of crown decline. Tree preservation plans during construction, watering, bio-stimulants, and soil de-compaction are all important steps to keep your tree’s roots from experiencing stress.

Exit hole from the Emerald Ash Borer

Exit hole from the Emerald Ash Borer


There are certain types of insects that will begin to kill your tree from the top down. For example many bark beetles, including the bronze birch borers and emerald ash borers, cause crown decline symptoms. If you think insects may be an issue on your tree check for entry and exit holes in the trunk and branches of your tree. Woodpecker activity is another indicator of beetles as well. If your tree is suffering from an insect infestation it will most likely need a properly applied insecticide treatment.


Trees that suffer from drought typically die from the top down and from the outer branches in. Other drought symptoms include wilting and yellowing of leaves and twig dieback. You can combat drought by thoroughly watering trees and mulching to retain moisture. To find out how much water your tree needs check out our watering article.

soil compositionBad Soil Composition:

Soil composition is an important part of managing a tree’s nutrients. Soil is made up of minerals, organic matter, water, and air. When these levels get out of balance they can stop the tree from absorbing the nutrients it needs to survive. This can lead to crown decline, yellowing of leaves, and other common tree symptoms. If soil makeup may be causing your issue a Certified Arborist can test a soil sample and perform treatments to adjust your soil back to a healthy composition.

It’s important that your tree get the right diagnosis if it is dying from the top down. The wrong diagnosis and treatment can further damage your fragile tree. If you want to save your tree, make sure to get a Certified Arborist to properly diagnose the root cause of your tree’s symptoms and implement a treatment plan.

10 thoughts on “My Tree Is Dying From The Top Down”

  1. Gloria Jorgenson says:

    My Linden tree has been dying from the top down. It started with the top last summer and leafed out from about a foot down from the top this spring. The leaves have been turning yellow and brown and moving down the tree at least another twelve to fourteen inches. The tree I would normally be about 7-8 feet tall. The rest of the tree is beautiful and blooming. I had a rubber mat around the tree to keep weeds under control and when I lifted it there were ants and a huge amount of eggs under it. Could the ants be killing the tree roots? How do I get rid of then under the soil. Should I spray the tree with sygon or diazinon ?

    1. Rtectree says:

      Gloria, ants typically do not harm trees; however, they can be a warning sign of decline or other health issues your tree may be dealing with. Your tree may be suffering from root stress, construction damage, drought, borers, or simply bad soil composition. Treatments for each issue vary and without proper diagnosis you could do more harm than good applying chemicals to your tree. We suggest having a Certified Arborist come out to correctly diagnose the tree and provide you with a treatment plan.

  2. Lily says:

    I have a relatively large white oak near my home-approx. 40′ tall, I have notice the crown of the tree is missing 75-85% of it’s leaves. I do not see any boring holes or insects. What to do!!!

    1. Rtectree says:


      I would suggest having a certified arborist come out and take a look to diagnose the issue with the tree. 75-85% canopy loss is a serious symptom of decline and could indicate root issues, heat stress, insects, or disease. A certified arborist will let you know the appropriate steps that need to be taken to save the tree or if the tree is too far gone and needs to be removed. If you’re in our service area give us a call 703-573-3029 or book an appointment online if you’re outside of our service area you can find an accredited tree care company and certified arborist through the TCIA site:

      -Samantha H.

  3. Sanju Johari says:

    My tree is dying from top to down since august..and i dont know the tree name m very worried please tell me what the symptom is i wanna save my tree any how..

    1. Rtectree says:

      Thank you for your inquiry. The best way for us to address the problem would be to look at the tree in person. If you are in the DC metropolitan area, please give us a call at 703-573-3029 to book an appointment with one of our Certified Arborists. Alternatively, you can book an appointment online by following this link:

  4. Nera Rossi says:

    Fall of 2018 I planted a blazing maple tree I removed all the clay soil and added compost and soil according to instructions I did not leave any of the clay for about 2 feet around it the leaves left early I did overwater I’m sure but the top couple of branches have no leaves I’d not sure if this is if I should trim of those dead twigs it’s the very top ?

    1. Rtectree says:

      Hi Nera, unfortunetly we’re not able to give great advice without having a look at the tree. I’d suggest you schedule an appointment with one of our Certified Arborists so he can take a look at the issue. Just schedule an appointment by calling 703-573-3029 or clicking the “Meet With An Arborist” button on the top of this webpage.

  5. Nantha says:

    My 6 years old trees are dying from bottom to top. Past 4 months and now another tree dying too. Water n sunlight are good here in Malaysia. This happens after termites pecticide taken place. I might be wrong, too. Kindly advice pls to save my trees. Thank you.

    1. Rtectree says:

      Hi Nantha, without seeing the tree in person we would not be able to diagnose the tree. Please contact a local arborist to come out and take a look at your tree! We hope the trees are able to be saved.
      -Samantha H.

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