wilted tree during daytime

How to Take Care of Old Trees and Keep Them Healthy

Trees make beautiful additions to any garden, adding beauty and value. Plus, they may help save energy costs by blocking high winds.

Mature trees require proper care and maintenance to remain healthy. Our Kingsport arborists offer some helpful tips for taking good care of old trees:


East Tennessee trees are a key feature of its landscape. Trees provide shade to homes and businesses alike, help lower utility bills, block winds, improve property value, and improve overall wellbeing. But to stay strong and healthy, trees need special care such as regular watering. Arborists recommend giving young trees, particularly newly planted ones, at least one deep soak every week during the hot summer months so they develop an extensive root system.

Maturity doesn’t preclude mature trees from needing water; however, keeping them hydrated remains crucial to ensure optimal performance. They have well-established root systems that don’t need to grow as rapidly, yet without enough moisture they could begin to decline and produce dead or damaged branches and leaves that need replacing.

Overwatering older trees can be just as harmful. Before watering a mature tree, check its soil moisture by inserting a screwdriver near its outer edge of canopy – when the screwdriver comes up clean or with very little soil attached, then it’s time to water!

Watering mature trees at the appropriate times can be a difficult challenge. Each situation varies greatly in terms of sun, wind and rain; so your frequency may increase in winter than summer.

Maintaining mature trees through regular watering will also help to avoid soil compaction, which is one of the major threats to their health. Be mindful to avoid foot traffic or any activities near their roots.


Trees add beauty and property value in East Tennessee landscapes, but older trees require special care. Supplemental watering during July and August may be needed; however, regular mulching will extend their lives the most.

Organic mulch provides several important benefits: It conserves moisture, cools soil temperature, improves texture, suppresses weeds and prevents ground-water runoff that dehydrates roots. However, to maximize benefits properly place it about 2-3 inches from the trunk of a tree so its root flare (a ring of bark visible at its base) remains exposed to air and rain – helping avoid insect or disease issues.

Mulch can be made out of almost any organic material, from leaves and twigs to wood chips, compost and straw. But mulch that is rich in organic matter is usually considered superior as it will eventually break down and add nutrients back into the soil.

Mulch can also help retain water in the soil by slowing evaporation rates and aiding with aeration and fertilization efforts. Furthermore, it protects tree roots from snowfall or ice build-up in winter conditions, thus decreasing risk.

Signs that a tree may not be healthy include reduced annual growth, brown or wilting foliage, trunk fungus growth and falling off or dying limbs. Anytime there are any such indications it would be prudent to consult a professional in order to assess and treat these problems immediately as early detection can often solve many issues successfully.


Old trees tend to have deeper, more established roots that can absorb nutrients more readily than their younger counterparts, so fertilizing older trees regularly can help ensure they remain healthy. It’s important to remember that over-fertilization can result in death of the tree if done too often; soil testing or general woody plant fertilizers that offer 8-1-1 or 15-5-5 ratios should help determine how much fertilizer to apply.

Mulch can help retain moisture, suppress weeds that compete for nutrients with trees, and encourage earthworm activity – beneficial both to soil health and to the roots! You can use organic matter such as leaves from lawn mowering run overs, compost, or wood chips as mulch for this purpose; doing this allows a slow release of nutrients without needing chemical fertilizers.

If using general fertilizers, apply them using either a rotary or drop-type spreader evenly throughout your tree’s root zone area. A root zone extends a few feet beyond branch tips and contains most of its roots; if unsure of its size draw a circle with string around its base to mark off this fertilized zone. When possible apply it before it rains so it can quickly seep into the soil and be absorbed by roots and trees alike.

Liquid application methods such as using a hose or watering can are popular and more efficient at dispersing nutrients into the soil than traditional granular fertilizers, however these liquid fertilizers tend to be more costly and could leach out if used on dry or frozen ground – always follow product label instructions when opting for liquid applications!


Mature trees enhance our landscapes by adding beauty, shade and value to homes. Their presence also reduces energy usage, removes pollutants from the air and cools our climate – yet just like humans they require regular care to remain healthy and vibrant.

A tree’s lifespan depends on many factors, including where and why it was planted, its purpose (such as shade/energy reduction, windbreaks or street trees), mechanical damage to it as well as any accidental mistakes that shorten its life span. Though few mature trees die of old age directly, mistakes made can significantly shorten its life.

One of the most frequent mistakes when it comes to tree care is improper pruning. Over-pruning, commonly known as topping, has become an epidemic practice that exposes older trees to disease, insects and storm damage. Topping drastically cuts back mature trees leaving large wounds that cannot heal properly while also depriving interior limbs essential carbohydrates they require for overall tree health.

Inappropriate pruning may involve taking too much live tissue from a mature tree, which reduces its ability to resist stress and injury. Therefore, it’s wise to only prune dead limbs or branches that have fallen or created safety risks; suckers – shoots that appear at the base of the trunk – as soon as they appear should also be eliminated promptly.

Overwatering is another frequent problem that deprives soil of oxygen, leading to root death. Watering should take place frequently and according to weather conditions; always check that the soil feels moist – just a quick touch should suffice!


Mature trees can be an asset to any yard. They provide shade, block wind, and add value. But once they fall or cause damage to people or property, these assets become liabilities – so annual inspection is important in preventing major issues with older trees.

Mature trees require more care than younger trees as their wood regrowth process is slower, they’re more sensitive to their environment, and more likely to show signs of stress such as discolored leaves or insect infestation.

When inspecting older trees, pay particular attention to their trunk flare and roots. This area is where roots begin to sprout up from beneath the dirt surface and should remain free from mulch or dirt accumulation. Also be mindful of dead branches as a possible harbinger of disease that could ultimately result in their demise; any visible fungus growth on bark suggests an aggressive and potentially lethal fungal pathogen infestation of your tree.

Large old trees in East Tennessee are invaluable assets, providing beauty, utility, and a sense of place for generations. Children use these majestic trees as playgrounds; shade provides shelter during special family BBQs; property values increase due to them; plus they help prevent water runoff by blocking high winds and providing noise reduction.