Box Elder Trees

Asked August 18, 2015, 11:31 AM EDT

I have two box elder trees that have lots of dead branches. They both are mature, at least 20 years old. One of the trees is enormous, and 75 to 80% of the middle branches are dead. It is in our front yard and gets full sun. The other is smaller and dead branches are throughout the tree. The smaller one in the rear of the yard is blocked on one side from sun by a shag bark hickory that is 50 to 60 feet tall. I'm trying to decide if I should have them cut down. The one in the front yard has been losing leaves early for about 5 or 6 years. Fertilizing has seemed to help some. I don't want to lose either of them. I have contacted a tree service to clean out the dead wood but am wondering if I'm just wasting time and money. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Jefferson County Kentucky

1 Response

An established tree adds value to a home in many ways, so I understand your dilemma. That being said, imagine each tree with the dead material pruned out: Is there any tree left to recover? Would it be unsightly or would it still provide shade? These are hard questions to answer as each tree needs to be evaluated separately. Many conditions are considered: slope, soil, water flow, sunlight, nutrients, space, age of tree, any construction, etc.

An on-site evaluation of the trees is probably necessary to assure you that they could be salvaged or they should be removed. Sometimes the biggest question is cost and you are the only one that can answer what is valuable to you and your home. If you decide to have the trees evaluated, select a Kentucky certified arborist.

Click on this link for a publication with more information on Stress and Decline in Woody Plants.

Feel free to contact our office if you would like to discuss these questions in person or have other questions.

Let me know if I can help you further!

Carol Wilder
Horticulture Technician
Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service
810 Barret Ave
Louisville KY 40204