Hi! We have a flowering crabapple (?) tree that has always been healthy but...

Asked July 23, 2014, 10:21 PM EDT

Hi! We have a flowering crabapple (?) tree that has always been healthy but this year seems really anemic. There are many branches on it that look completely dead, and most of the others have very small, sick-looking leaves. Do you have any idea what it could be, and what we should do? Thanks!

Hennepin County Minnesota

3 Responses

Die back is often caused by root problems. If the tree cannot take up water it cannot make leaves. I would check below the soil line and see if there is a problem on the trunk. Is there rot? Is the bark intact around the base of the tree? It looks ok from the picture one cannot say for sure without seeing the trunk all the way around.Having it evaluated by an arborist is the best way to find out what is wrong. It looks like it is having more of a problem than can be fixed by mulching under the tree and supplying an inch of water to the tree each week. We have had plenty of rain this summer so even if it is heat stressed, its condition looks like more than heat stress.

Thanks so much for your answer. Last fall the gas utility dug a large hole in the yard close to this tree, using a backhoe. Probably they cut a lot of roots. If that is the case, is there anything we can do? Would an arborist be able to do anything?

Construction can do a lot of damage. Mulching under the tree out to the drip line and making sure the tree's root zone receives an inch of water a week and more often if the daily temperatures are very hot may help the tree to recover. If the tree did not lose 75% of its root mass it may recover. Do not fertilize the tree. Fertilizing stimulates growth and the tree needs to put its energy into growing new roots.