Texas Living

Guide to Proper Tree Care in Texas

By Peter Simek 11.23.20

It’s easy to forget an important property asset that sits right outside our front doors: our Texas trees. Trees are living things, and they need caring for just like people and animals do. But where to start?

When it comes to taking care of your trees, your best bet is to find a certified arborist through ISA Texas, the Texas chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. Arborists can help with pruning, tree removal, emergency tree care, planning, cabling, bracing, soil treatment and fertilization, and everything you need to make sure your trees remain healthy and strong for years to come. Here’s some advice from certified Texas arborist Guy LeBlanc.

What to Consider When Growing Trees

When planning a new tree, your first consideration should be choosing the right tree for your yard. The need for sun, your plant-hardiness zone, soil chemistry, and drainage are all important elements to consider. Also keep tree maintenance in mind when choosing your tree type. Fruit trees or trees that produce berries, like mulberry trees, can make a mess if they drop their fruit on sidewalks, walkways, or driveways.

Another important consideration is making sure you provide enough space for your tree to grow. Be aware of power lines that branches may grow into. When spacing your tree next to your house, remember that the diameter of the tree’s canopy at full growth will also be the diameter of the tree’s root base. While a trees branches may hang over your home, its roots could disrupt your foundation if it’s planted too close to your home.

Pruning Your Trees

The first rule of pruning: Don’t prune without good reason. According to Heritage Tree Care in Austin, a single mature tree can be worth $1,000 to $50,000, depending on its size, species, age, and location. “You can damage or even kill a tree if you don’t have the knowledge and experience to trim it properly,” they say. “Even bad pruning of young trees can set them back for years.”

LeBlanc says that improper pruning of trees can create problems that persist for the length of a tree’s life, including illness and future limb failure. Homeowners should beware of any tree-service company that wants to over-prune trees.

“I rarely remove more than 10% of a tree’s live branches, and more typically I’m removing about 5%, for such things as street and building clearance and limbs rubbing against other limbs or trees,” LeBlanc says.

If you decide to prune your tree yourself, here are some general guidelines to follow:


  • Eliminate dead limbs to ensure healthy growth.
  • Prune regularly (depending on the type of tree).
  • Prune after a storm if you see any damaged or loose limbs.


  • Prune a newly planted tree during the first year.
  • Prune within 10 feet of a utility conductor — let a professional take care of that.

Planning Your Tree Care

Keep in mind that trees are living things that respond to the year’s cycles. Plan your tree care based on the seasons to ensure that your trees stay healthy.

  • Winter: Prune now, when it is easy to read the shape of a tree. This promotes new growth during spring.
  • Spring: Look for pests, as this is when insects will become active again. Don’t prune your tree — this is a time of peak growth.
  • Summer: Prune as trees slow down their growth during the hot months.
  • Fall: Plant new trees, when soil is cool, and the wetter weather can help establish healthy root foundations. Don’t prune, as it can aid the growth of fungus, and trees will take longer to heal during the long winter.

How to Rescue Sick Trees

LeBlanc says trees can become unhealthy for a variety of reasons that may not be visible to the naked eye. “Tree decay is caused by numerous species of fungi, and often the loss of wood strength they cause is not visible externally,” LeBlanc says.

One common problem is Texas Oak Wilt, a species of fungus that can enter trees through open wounds. It’s one of the most destructive tree diseases in the U.S. and is a good reason to have a certified arborist prune your trees. If oak wilt is particularly bad, an arborist may treat a tree with a fungicide injection.

Insects can also damage trees, though healthy trees will often be able to fight off seasonal infestations themselves. “The vast majority of the time I recommend doing nothing, especially if the infestation comes late in the growing season,” LeBlanc says. “Sucking insect damage does often cause premature leaf drop, but again, healthy trees will recover from this.”

Another challenge for trees is insufficient fertilization, which will sometimes take the form of nitrogen or iron deficiency. Most of these issues can be dealt with by careful and calculated fertilizing treatments. “The technique I find best involves injecting a customized blend of elements and compounds with proven soil and microbe benefits below the surface,” LeBlanc says.

Unhealthy trees, when left untreated, can pose a risk to your property. FInd out how caring for your trees can protect your investments and reduce your liability exposure.

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