8 Havoc-Wreaking Tree and Shrub Problems and Solutions for a Healthier Landscape in TN and MS

If you are dealing with trees or shrubs dying then you might be trying to get to the bottom of what’s wrong. After all, your trees and shrubs are a valuable addition to your property and the last thing that you want is to lose them to something that could be fixed.

Sometimes, there is not a single problem but actually several problems at hand. Whether it’s one or more issues you may be dealing with, your next step is figuring out what’s wrong.

8 Tree Problems and Solutions

When it comes to tree problems and diagnosis, there’s quite a variety of different issues that could be occurring. Pests and disease are two prominent ones (and what we’ll focus on here) but the problem could also be environmental. Environmental stressors such as too much (or too little) water or improper planting could be the reason behind the shrubs or trees dying at your Memphis, TN or Olive Branch, MS home.

There’s a lot involved in making a proper diagnosis. In order to give you some sense of what you might be dealing with, here are 8 common trees problems that we see frequently in our region.

1. Lace Bugs

These tiny, flat bugs grow no longer than ⅛  inch long and feed on the undersides of leaves, which makes them difficult to spot. Their wings have a see-through-like appearance that gives them their name.

Lace Bug

In Memphis, TN and Olive Branch, MS we see this problem most often on Azaleas. If you have these shrubs dying, lace bugs are a possible culprit. Lace bug damage to azaleas generally takes place on the leaves. It will look like silvery, white or yellow spots caused by these pests sucking small sections of the leaf dry and killing it off.

2. Leaf Miners

Leaf miners are tiny black flies. The flies do not directly cause damage to the plant; instead, it is the larvae of these flies that causes the problems. Leaf miner damage usually shows up as yellow squiggly lines in the leaves.


This is where the larvae have bored their way through the leaf. Leaf miner damage can also appear as spots or blotches. Leaf miners are found on numerous trees and shrubs.

3. Aphids

Also called “plant lice,” aphids are soft-bodied insects that use their piercing sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap out of the leaves, stems, or roots.

Aphids damaging plant

As a result, aphids can stunt plant growth and cause the deformation of leaves, buds, and flowers. Aphids are often found on Crepe Myrtles.

4. Bagworms

Another common tree problems diagnosis in our region is bagworms. This pest gets its name from the bag that it constructs with silk and pieces of the plant’s foliage. While the adult bagworm larvae pupates and turns into a moth in fall, female moths then lay up to 1,000 eggs in each bag, which overwinter and hatch the next spring.

bagworm on branch damaging plant

Although the young larvae are tiny (only about ¼ inch when they first hatch), they are destructive. After they voraciously feed they can grow to be a full inch. Unfortunately, bagworms are often missed until plants begin to brown from the irreparable damage in late summer.

5. Spider Mites

While its 8 legs and resemblance to a spider gives this pest its name, the spider mite is incredibly tiny. In fact, at only 1/64-inch long, you could be standing next to your tree or shrub and not even spot them.

spider mites on leaf

Although there are other types of mites, spider mites are the most notorious of the group and though they are small, they are highly destructive. There are many plants on which we find spider mites including Boxwood, Arborvitae, and Spruce to name just some.

6. Scale

Scale insects are sap-feeding insects that are named for the scale that covers and conceals their bodies. It is a shell-like waxy covering. Depending on the species, you may find scale on tree branches, stems, foliage, or fruiting bodies.

scale insect on tree causing damage

Scale insects feed by using their sucking mouthparts to suck sap from trees and shrubs. If you have shrubs or trees dying, it’s possible that it’s scale. We often find it on hollies in our region. It also appears on crepe myrtle trees and requires a special treatment, outside of our Plant Health Care program, for this specific tree species.

7. Leaf Spot

Leaf spot is a common descriptive term applied to a number of diseases affecting the foliage of ornamentals and shade trees. Leaf spot diseases can weaken your tree by interrupting it’s photosynthesis process, ultimately leading to leaf loss.

leaf with leaf spot damage

Some diseases can remain cosmetic for the most part, while others mean major health issues for plants.

8. Blight

Tree blight refers to a group of tree diseases which are caused by fungus or bacteria. Tree blight can be very detrimental to the health of the tree, and if left unchecked, could ultimately lead to the tree’s death.

Tree damaged by blight

There are times when the damage from blight is going to be irreversible or the disease is too serious to control. If you have trees dying and we can’t repair them, you can count on us to be honest with you if your best course of action is removal and planting something new.

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The Solution to These Common Tree and Shrub Problems

For each of these 8 common problems, a Plant Health Care program would reduce your risk of your trees or shrubs dying. A Plant Health Care program can prevent diseases and pests, assuming the problem is not too far gone. Sometimes homeowners call us after a disease or pest has already completely ravaged their plant and sometimes, there’s just no coming back from that.

So what exactly is Plant Health Care? To sum it up, Plant Health Care provides your plants with vital nutrients they need to thrive while also protecting them against insects and disease.

healthy plants protected by plant health care services

The treatments combine fertilization, pest control, and disease control. You might also think of Plant Health Care as a way to help protect your  investment in your landscape since it will reduce the risk of your plants succumbing to diseases and pests.

Of course, it’s not a fix-all solution and there are some issues that simply can’t be remedied. Because of this, it’s important to have a professional out to your property to perform a thorough assessment and provide you with a proper diagnosis and solution, even if that solution means replacing the plant.

Invest in your Landscape

If your plants do fall victim to pests, disease, or environmental stressors, it could cost you way more (money, time, aggravation, reputation, and ultimately, peace of mind) than it would have to invest in Plant Health Care in the first place. This is why many of our customers see it as a wise addition to their lawn care program. After all, your landscape is a very important part of your property and you want to do everything you can to protect it.

By making an investment in Plant Health Care, you’ll be able to let go of your worries that something might happen to your trees and shrubs and instead be able to have the peace of mind that they’re in good hands.

Want to invest in protecting your landscape? Request a quote, get your customized plan, and become the master of your landscape.

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Image sources: lace bug, leaf miner, aphids, bagworm, spider mites, scale, leaf spotblight

Michael Hatcher

Michael Hatcher is president of Michael Hatcher & Associates.

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