American Tree Experts, Inc. :: Owned and operated by the Rombough Family
American Tree Experts, Inc. was established in 1934 by Francis Rombough
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General Tree and Shrub Care

Care of specific trees


    Here are some tips for caring for your trees. This is by no means an exhaustive list; rather it is a discussion of some of the common problems that we find in our area.
  1. Arborvitae - Remember to knock the snow off in the winter so that they don't fall over. Arborvitae have a tendency to get spider mites - if they begin to look brownish-grayish, call us and we will stop by to check them out. Be careful not to plant arborvitae too deep and do not plant in areas where soil flooding may occur.  Arborvitae seem to do best when planted in full sun.  Post-planting care (checking soil moisture and watering when necessary) is very important when dealing with arborvitae. Click here to see picture.

  2. Ash - This is one of the trees that you are going to want to water during times of drought. We can recommend a watering program at these times. Ashes also tend to develop a fungus condition called anthracnose during wet spring seasons. Click here to see picture.

  3. Beech - Do not drive heavy equipment over the root system of beeches. We do not recommend planting/digging under the canopy of beeches. We can give other tips toward keeping your beech in good health. When beeches start to become stressed, borers often invade the bark. Click here to see picture.

  4. Birch - Most BIRCHES like moist, well-drained soils. During times of drought, supplemental irrigation will help tremendously. When stressed, they also fall prey to borers. Click here to see picture. Certain varieties of birch are better adapted to our climate than others. The European White Birches, distinguished by their vertical fissures at the base of the tree are hit most often by borers in our area. Birches can also be attacked by the birch leaf miner.

  5. Crabapples - Host to many diseases such as fire blight, apple scab, powdery mildew, and Rust Diseases . We do not recommend growing crabapples near junipers.

  6. Crape Myrtle - These tend to get hit pretty hard during cold winters. Make sure to purchase a variety that is hardy to our area. Giving the plant plenty of time to become established before winter will also help. Mulch around the tree in the fall to help moderate soil temperatures.
  7. Some color options:

    Crape Myrtle
  8. Dogwood - This is another tree that will require supplemental irrigation during times of drought. They should be kept pruned for better air circulation and light penetration to maintain a less-favorable environment for the spread of disease. It also helps to rake up the fallen leaves so they do not re-infect the tree. Do not use diseased leaves for mulch. Be careful not to plant even an inch too deep and do not plant in areas where soil flooding may occur. A Dogwood treated with fungicide at budbreak and every 10 days after displays how good the leaves look when protected in this way.

  9. Elm - Unfortunately, Dutch Elm Disease has wiped out many elms in our area. There are disease resistant varieties that are now available.

  10. False Cypress - The Hinoki false cypress does not like wet soil. Planting in a well-draining soil will help.

  11. Flowering Pear - These trees often develop tight crotches (where limb and trunk meet) that can become weak points and possible sites for future limb breakage. Click for an example.

  12. Flowering PLUM - Often develop scale insects. Be careful not to plant too deep. Click for a healthy example.

  13. Hawthorn - These can have sensational floral displays but are unfortunately prone to leaf diseases. Click for an example.

  14. HEMLOCK - Click here for a page on hemlock care.

  15. Horsechestnut - The leaves often scorch during hot summer months. Click for an example of horsechestnut leaf scorch.

  16. JAPANESE SNOWBELL- Click for an example.

  17. Katsura tree- This tree will require supplemental irrigation during times of drought. Click for an example of leaf scorch.

  18. Kwanzan cherry- This tree will require supplemental irrigation during times of drought.

  19. Magnolia- Be careful not to plant too deep.

  20. Maple- Japanese Maples may require supplemental irrigation during periods of low rain fall. Norway maples often get girdling roots (choking roots which encircle the stem). Girdling roots may be obvious when they occur above ground.  When they are below ground, one of the signs is that one side (or all sides) of the tree goes straight into the ground like a telephone pole (instead of having a root flare). Sugar maples abhor road salt. Be careful when salting and plowing in the winter.

  21. Mulberry- These trees often develop tight crotches (where limb and trunk meet) that can become weak points and possible sites for future limb breakage.

  22. OAK - Oaks are quite intolerant of construction damage. The damage can happen in several ways.  Large machinery driven over the root zone (i.e. under the canopy) of oak trees can compact the soil, depriving the roots of necessary oxygen to live and function. Trenching can cut valuable roots from the tree. Mounding soil on top of the root zone can also disrupt soil oxygen and water levels.  The best thing to do is meet with an arborist before construction starts and define "protection zones" for trees."

  23. Pine- Be careful not to plant too deep. White pines do not tolerate road salt. Pines frequently are attacked by "pine bark adelgid".

  24. Redbud- We have noticed that some of the red-leaf varieties give better color when planted in sunlight rather than dense shade. Click for an example.

  25. Spruce- Be careful to plant in well-draining soil. Do not plant too deep. Click for an example. Spruces, as well as arborvitae, are subject to attacks by bagworm. The accumulation of dead branches inside the canopy of a spruce is a common occurrence.  However, when one whole dead branch dies at a time, and the dead branch thus sticks out of the canopy like THIS, it is a sign that a fungus disease called a 'canker' has attacked the branch.  These are not merely dead branches; they should be pruned out to hinder the spread of the disease." 

  26. STEWARTIA- A great tree for summer flowers. They may develop a tip scorch in hot summers. It is probably best to plant them in a place where they will have a break from the sun during the hottest part of the day. Click for Stewartia Example.

  27. Sycamore- The leaves often develop a fungus condition called anthracnose during the late spring/early summer. London Plane Trees are closely related to Sycamore trees, but are usually less prone to anthracnose.

  28. TULIP - Tulip trees, like oaks, do not tolerate much construction stress (trenching, mounding soil on top of the root zone, grading down, compacting soil with large equipment). Click for an example.

  29. Walnut- The leaves and roots of black walnuts secrete a substance toxic to rhododendrons and certain other plants. Don't try to grow these two together. Click for an example.

  30. Weeping Cherry- Look out for branches that emerge from below the graft union (on a pink flowering tree these branches will flower white). Here is a picture of branch that emerged below the graft union and took over the tree. Notice the branches weep on the left side, and do not on the right (and up top). This tree flowers pink on the left and white up top.
Care of specific SHRUBS
  1. ALBERTA SPRUCE -   Dwarf plants that are often susceptible to spider mites and reverted growth.  Reverted growth should be removed before it takes over the shrub.

  2. Andromeda - Often troubled by lace bug.

  3. Arborvitae - See under "trees" above. Deer often feed on arborvitae. They usually feed up to a 4 foot height and leave the rest of the plant alone.

  4. Globe Blue Spruce - Click for example.

  5. Boxwood - Be careful to plant in well-draining soil. Don't plant too deep.

  6. Burning Bush Euonymus - This plant may require supplemental irrigation during times of low rainfall.

  7. Crape myrtle - see under "trees" above.

  8. Deutzia- This plant may require supplemental irrigation during times of low rainfall. - Click for a close-up.

  9. EUONYMUS - Euonymus commonly get two main problems.  The first is an insect called SCALE, which can take over the plant very quickly.  The second is the occurrence of REVERTED SHOOTS in variegated varieties (plants with two different color leaves) that come up only green, instead of two-tone.  These shoots should be pruned to keep the reversion from taking over the shrub.

  10. Forsythia - This plant may require supplemental irrigation during times of low rainfall. Click here to view.

  11. Hemlocks - see under "trees" above.

  12. Holly - Holly leaves often dry out during winter. Mulching in the fall to moderate soil temperatures and planting in a protected area will help. They can get the Holly Leaf Miner (Click for example) and Holly Winter Desiccation (Click for example).

  13. Hydrangea - This plant may require supplemental irrigation during times of low rainfall.

  14. Junipers - Avoid planting near crabapples. Click for an example.

  15. Leucothoe - This plant does better when planted in shade. For an example of a Leucothe in full sun, Click here.

  16. Mountain Laurel - Tends to develop fungal diseases more in deep shade. Click for a Healthy example.

  17. RED TWIG DOGWOOD - These shrubs have been troubled by a twig blight. Drought and heavy shade predisposes the shrub to this fungal disease. Click for a healthy example of Red Twig Dogwood.

  18. Rhododendrons This plant likes well-drained soil. This plant may require supplemental irrigation during times of low rainfall. Click for an example of the iron deficiency of rhododendrons.


  19. Summersweet- This shrub will require supplemental irrigation during times of drought.

  20. Viburnum - These shrubs (especially the double-file viburnum) will require supplemental irrigation during times of drought.

  21. Yew - Provide good drainage for this plant. This plant has been subject to attacks from the Cottony Camellia Scale. Yew is the common name for Taxus.  Cottony Camellia Scale is another name for Taxus scale. Click for example one of Cottony Camellia Scale. Click for example two of Cottony Camellia Scale.
other notes
  1. DEER - Plant deer resistant varieties or try a deer fence to deter them. We commonly receive calls complaining of deer feeding on arborvitae and YEW.

  2. MULCH - Mulching can conserve soil moisture and moderate soil temperatures.  It can also keep trees from being damaged by string trimmers (weed whackers).  Don't let the mulch sit too high against the trunk; this may lock in moisture against the stem/bark and rot it away. Mulch may need to be roughed up from time to time to keep it from crusting over (in order to allow water to penetrate more easily).

  3. POISON IVY - Contact with the leaves or vine can give you a rash.

    Staking should be done only when necessary. Don't forget to remove the ties before they girdle the stem
    Staking should be done only when necessary.  Don't forget to remove the ties before they girdle the stem
    of the tree.
    Racoon living in a previously topped tree.
    Racoon living in a previously topped tree.

  4. TOPPING - Topping trees, the removal of most or all of the green growth on a tree in order to dwarf the tree, is not a recommended practice.  Topping should not be confused with the shaping of ornamental trees or pollarding.  Here are some reasons why we do not top trees:

    (A) Topping takes away the tree's mechanism that it uses to create food for itself, the leaves, thus starving the tree.

    (B) Trees that are topped often grow back much faster and
    thicker than well-pruned trees.

    (C) New branches that form near old topping cuts often form weak connections, a situation that could render the tree hazardous in years to come.

    (D) Topping cuts and the resulting decay that may follow can provide insects and fungii easy access to the tree. 

    (E) Topping destroys the natural beauty of a tree.

  5. WATERING - Click here for a page on watering information.

  6. ROAD SALT - The snow plowing of streets and driveways that have been salted, where the snow is deposited near or under salt-sensitive plants, can cause a decline in vigor or even plant death.  We have found that hemlocks, sugar maples, and white pines are extremely sensitive to saline soil.  The best action is preventative: do not plant salt-sensitive plant material in areas where they may come in contact with salt-laden snow.  If salty snow has already been deposited near sensitive mature trees, extra water (especially during a drought) may be required during the following growing season. 

  7. PLANTING TOO DEEP - Planting depth is often the culprit when new plantings suddenly decline or die.  Plant roots need oxygen to survive and function.  When shrubs and trees are planted too deep, oxygen levels near the root zone are decreased.  Also, the likelihood of soil flooding is greatly increased.  There are three precautions that will help with planting at the proper height.  First, plant with the root flare (the part where the trunk flares like an elephants' foot) at ground level or even an inch higher.  Second, do not dig a hole deeper than necessary for the plant.  When the planting hole is dug deeper than necessary, the backfilled soil placed under the plant will often compress as the plant is watered (causing the plant to "sink").  Third, when planting balled-in-burlap shrubs and trees, it may be necessary to "find" the root flare before planting.  The reason for this is that plants that have been machine-dug in the nursery may have had soil mounded up on top of the plant, giving the customer a false view of where the proper planting depth is.  (Picture of an arborvitae planted too deep vs. a picture of an arborvitae planted correctly). For more information on planting, see our planting page.

  8. TOO MUCH SUN / TOO LITTLE SUN - Some shrubs, like hollies and virginia sweetspire, seem to be at home in almost any environment, whether sun or shade.  Other plants are more fickle.  Sun-loving plants that are planted in the shade may not flower well or may grow sparse.  Shade loving plants that are planted in full sun may develop tip scorch, wilt, or even die.  It is important to check the tag and match plants correctly with their site.  We have found that many "partial sun" plants do well when planted with morning-sun exposure and shade in the afternoon.  Afternoon sunlight can be very hot and can burn shade-loving plants even during a short time of exposure."

  9. SOIL DRAINAGE - Some plants are capable of adapting to water-logged soils.  Some trees, like the Norway spruce, flowering dogwood, arborvitae, and hemlock, do not tolerate soil flooding.  This does not mean that these trees should not be watered.  It does mean, however, that the site for planting should be evaluated for drainage before planting sensitive plant material.  Does the proposed planting area collect water after a rain?  If it does, this may not be the best place for one of the trees listed above.  Sometimes, however, the area can be bermed up to keep plants from sitting in water.  Another important factor is to evaluate the drainage of the soil.  Dig a hole about as deep as the root ball of the plant to be planted.  Fill the hole up with water.  If there is still water in the hole after a 1/2 hour, then steps should be taken to improve drainage (or berm higher).  Sometimes even established plants are suddenly exposed to water due to grade changes or exposure to water from house gutters.  When this happens, it may be necessary to provide a way to "catch" and channel the excess water away from the plant.

  10. GIRDLING ROOTS - See under MAPLE above.
Viburnum acerifolium Viburnum plicatum tomentosum
Viburnum acerifolium
Viburnum plicatum tomentosum
47 Walnut Street Montclair, New Jersey 07042 :: Voice: 973-744-6091 :: Fax: 973-744-2823