Do Trees Need Fertilizer: A Beginner’s Guide

Do trees need fertilizer, or can they draw the nutrients they require from the soil? At Spruce Up Tree Care, Memphis’ tree fertilization service, we hear this question all the time. The short answer is that there may be a nutrient deficiency in the soil, making it essential to feed your mature trees. Read on to learn more.  

When to Fertilize Trees

While the answer to “Do trees need fertilizer?” is usually “Yes,” it’s essential to provide the nutrients at the right time. You will need the right type of fertilizer for the tree and what stage it is in during its life cycle:

  • Growing trees require feeding with a nitrogen-based fertilizer year-round.
  • Fertilizing in spring promotes lush leaf growth, which is essential for trees to produce energy. 
  • Trees fed in spring are better able to fight off disease.
  • You should consider feeding young saplings in spring to stimulate root growth and plant growth.
  • Fertilizing in the fall has the benefit of giving the tree food for the winter and restoring the soil for a heavy feeder. 

When your tree is mature, it requires less consistent feeding. At this stage, you should test the soil or look for signs that your soil needs nutrients. 

Signs That Indicate You Need to Feed the Soil 

There are several symptoms that your soil is low in nutrients. If you notice any of these, contact us:

  • Stunted growth
  • Dead branches
  • Discolored leaves of leave drop
  • Short twigs

How Much Fertilizer Do You Need?

There are several factors to consider here. You must consider things like the stage of growth of your tree, the tree species, and the state of the soil. A good rule of thumb is to add 0.1 or 0.2 pounds of nitrogen for every square foot of soil. Feed the soil and see how the tree reacts, repeating if necessary in a few months.

Baby Trees

Do trees need fertilizer at the start? You should not feed a sapling during its first couple of years. When you do add fertilizer, be careful not to make it too concentrated, or you can burn the roots. This is particularly true of nitrogen. For this reason, it’s better to use slow-release or organic fertilizers.

Growing Trees

This is the stage where your tree needs as much help as possible. Consult us for the best advice on the nutrients to add and when to add them.

Mature Trees

Mature trees seldom require additional feeding unless the soil is very poor. It’s best to test the soil for deficiencies before simply adding nitrogen or other fertilizers. Feeding the tree too much will cause it to put out greenery at the expense of flowers and fruit.

Get Professional Help for the Best Results

Now that you can answer the question, “Do trees need fertilizer?” you’re ready to learn more about tree care. If you don’t have the time, or would like professional advice, contact Spruce Up Tree Care at (901) 833-8242. Our certified arborists will evaluate your trees and develop a custom feeding strategy to aid in optimal growth.


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(901) 833-8242

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