shrub care ladybug

Tree and shrub care in summertime

Shrub care

Summer brings its own set of challenges for tree and shrub care. It’s an important time in their annual growth cycle, so you want to take steps to do everything possible to care for them.

Water, water & water

With most of the country experiencing increasingly hot summers, summer tree and shrub care comes down to three major factors: 1. water; 2. water; and 3. water! Check your plants regularly for signs of drought stress, which can display as: wilting; off-color, undersized leaves;  leaf scorch; dropping leaves; early fall coloring; yellowing of the leaves; limited twig growth; and small, poorly formed buds.

shrub care watering your trees

Shrub care - check the soil

Other than external symptoms, for shrub care you can also check the soil around the plants. You should be able to stick something like a long screwdriver into the soil below your tree easily. If you can’t, your tree needs more water. Another way to check the soil is to dig 6-8 inches deep near the tree or shrub and check the soil at that depth. It should be cool and moist. If it’s very wet, you’re overwatering, and – if it crumbles – your tree needs more water.

However, over watering is also damaging to your trees, and can lead to root rot, fungal infection, and/or long-term tree stress. Signs of over watering include when : the area around the tree is constantly wet; new growth withers before it’s fully grown or becomes light green or yellow;  and leaves appear green but are fragile and break easily. If you find your trees have been overwatered, stop watering them for a week or so. Check the soil around them regularly, and only start watering again when required.

Efficient methods for tree & shrub care

Keep in mind that your regular lawn watering is not sufficient for your trees. Trees need deeper, less-frequent applications of water in order to promote better root growth, rather than shallow, more-frequent irrigation. There are a couple of methods you can use for watering your trees that are both efficient and help to conserve water usage:

shrub care watering can irrigation manually

Hand-watering – this tree and shrub care is especially helpful for establishing young trees and shrubs.  Create a soil basin around the tree, fill with water, and allow it to soak in;

Drip irrigation:  a drip irrigation system is the best way to use water efficiently for shrub care. This lets water be applied at a slow rate directly where it’s needed near the tree roots. Soaker hoses can also be used.


Tree and shrub pests are a potential problem in the summer, with pests such as magnolia scale, bagworms, Japanese beetles, aphids, and spider mites being especially active. You need to examine trees for pest infestations on a regular basis, looking for visible pests and their nests.

Signs of infestation may include:

  • chewed foliage – different insects leave different chewing patterns and sometimes even chew on different parts of the leaf;
  • distorted foliage – puckered or distorted leaves may be caused by aphids;
  • white spots/ sticky residue – often from scale insects;
  • stippled, dull foliage – may be caused by mites, lace bugs. and scale insects’
  • cottony masses – from wooly aphids, scale or adelgid;
  • holes in the tree – often seen with sawdust coming from the holes, these are caused by wood-boring insects.


Though generally the best time to prune is while trees are dormant – typically during fall and winter – it’s still beneficial to check your trees during the summer for any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. Trees that flower in the spring  – such as magnolias, flowering cherries, and lilacs – are best pruned in the early summer, as soon as they finish blooming.

shrub care and pruning for a healthy garden


Mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress or block weeds, stabilize soil temperatures, and make the landscape look more attractive. There are two categories of mulch: – organic – completely natural, organic mulch may be composed of wood chips, pine needles, hardwood and softwood bark, leaves, and compost mixes. It’s preferred by tree care professionals as it decomposes, improves soil structure, and increases soil fertility; and – inorganic mulch – made of synthetic materials, it’s best for fully blocking weeds, retaining water, and keeping longer than organic mulch. However, it doesn’t add nutrients to the soil.

Put down mulch after weeding and after stripping off any old mulch.

Form a 3- to 5-inch layer of mulch  in a donut shape starting a few inches from the base of the trunk and extending 1–2 feet from the tree in all directions, but don’t mound mulch against the trunk as this can promote disease and insect issues.