Reasons Your Tree Changing Colors in Spring or Summer is a Bad Sign

Reasons Your Tree Changing Colors in Spring or Summer is a Bad Sign

Distressed tree changing colors and dying

Is your tree changing color when it should be green? Tree foliage will change color for several reasons. Some of those reasons may lead to the death of the tree, while others are merely seasonal. gathered information on why trees change color, and when a color change signals severe problems with trees.

Deciduous vs. Evergreen Trees

In a very general sense, trees may be classified in one of two categories; deciduous or evergreen. When their foliage changes color, it can be interpreted as:

Deciduous Trees – A deciduous tree keeps its green color throughout spring and summer. During autumn, its leaves will change from green to vibrant yellow, orange, red, or purple before falling to the ground.

This color change occurs as the days shorten and temperatures drop. As the leaves cease their food making process, the chlorophyll breaks down, the green color fades away, and so begins the fall color change and leaf drop spectacle.

Leaf color change on deciduous trees in fall

This process also enables the tree to conserve energy as it prepares to enter dormancy throughout late autumn and winter.

Evergreen Trees – As the name suggests, these trees remain green throughout the year. Typically, they will drop small amounts of foliage as new growth takes its place during the spring and summer months.

While healthy evergreen trees slow down considerably during autumn and winter months, they retain their foliage and green color.

Diseased, Infested, and Dying Trees

When a deciduous tree changes color during spring or summer months, or an evergreen changes color at any time, there is cause for concern. One or a combination of the following may be causing the tree to decline in health or die:

Drought – Drought conditions can happen any time throughout the year, and trees viscerally respond to hydraulic failure.

When there is a lack of water within a tree, the entire crown may be affected in the following ways:

• Chlorosis (loss of color) of the foliage
• Wilting
• Premature leaf drop
• Hardening of branches and twigs
• Self-pruning (shedding of entire branches)

If a regular water supply is not restored to the tree at the onset of drought symptoms, the tree will likely die.

Solution: Maintain a watering pattern throughout the year, increasing the frequency during dry stretches and decreasing during rainy seasons.

Root Rot – Excess water may deprive tree roots of getting the air that they need, leading to decay. To avoid root rot, it is best to only water trees when the soil becomes dry, and to plant the tree in well-drained soil.

Symptoms of root rot are very similar to those of drought, including chlorosis, and premature leaf drop, as both ailments cause hydraulic failure within the tree.

Tree leaf chlorosis and death from disease stress

One of the significant differences between drought and root rot is the destabilization of a tree affected by root rot. Without firm roots to anchor the tree, the lightest of storm activity may cause it to topple.

Solution: Avoid overwatering trees and plants located in poorly drained soil. If root rot has already occurred, contact a tree service professional to evaluate the situation and recommend a course of action.

Heart Rot – Trees are susceptible to heart-rotting fungi that produce a lightweight, soft, spongy, stringy, or powdery heart decay. Signs that a tree is rotting from the inside are:

• Leaf chlorosis
• Wilting
• Premature leaf drop
• Dead and brittle branches
• Mushroom conks growing from the trunk
• Bark abnormalities (swelling, deep cracks, or holes)

While trees are very good at compartmentalizing (isolating) damaged or diseased portions of themselves, some fungi can cause massive amounts of potentially fatal damage before the tree can react.

Solution: The following will help a tree avoid heart rot:

• Promote the tree’s health (watering, pruning, fertilizing, mulching)
• Prune in late fall or early winter
• Avoid bark damage
• Remove storm-damaged branches

Trees with symptoms of heart rot should be evaluated and treated or removed by a tree service professional, as soon as possible to avoid severe damages should the tree topple or collapse.

If your tree is dying, learn more about what you can do at

Anthracnose – Anthracnose can attack a tree (fruit trees are more susceptible) at any stage of its growth and can affect leaves, stems, pods, fruits, and roots. The symptoms of anthracnose are:

• Small irregular yellow, brown, or black spots that expand and merge together on foliage. Severe infections can affect entire portions of the crown.
• Cankers on stems and branches that cause extreme defoliation and rotting of fruit and roots.
• Fruits develop sunken circular spots that darken with age, eventually producing gelatinous pink spore masses.

Signs and symptoms of anthracnose tree disease

Solution: The following can help prevent an anthracnose infection:

• Promote your tree’s health (watering, pruning, fertilizing, mulching)
• Transplant only healthy seedlings
• Remove and destroy infected tree parts
• Harvest unripe but mature fruits
• Plants species that are resistant to anthracnose disease
• Keep the landscape free of weeds

If your tree has become severely infected with anthracnose, the best containment of the disease may be the complete removal and destruction of the tree. Hire a tree service professional to evaluate the tree’s situation, and risk to surrounding vegetation before deciding on a course of action.

You can learn more about tree diseases and treatment at

Insect Infestation – Severe infestations by honeydew-producing aphids, leaf-consuming caterpillars, trunk burrowing beetles, and other opportunistic insects can lead to a tree being overstressed and dying. Symptoms of an insect infestation may include:

• Chlorosis of the foliage of a portion of or the entire crown
• Wilting and leaf drop
• Damaged or eaten foliage
• The appearance of sooty mold on infested foliage
• The presence of ants (colonizing and tending to aphids)
• Severe premature leaf drop
• Burrowed circular holes in branch or trunk bark

Tree leaf damage from insect infestation

Solution: Upon detection of an insect infestation, the infected and surrounding trees should be treated and protected with:

• Insect traps (tree bands, ant traps, beetle traps, etc.)
• Neem oil spray
• Insecticide

In cases where beetles and other burrowing insects are involved, a tree service professional should be contracted to survey the tree, property, and surrounding landscape to attempt to gain full control over the infestation.

Climbing Vines – If left uncontrolled, climbing vines are capable of ascending to the top of a tree and spreading across its crown. As the vine spreads its foliage, it absorbs the sunlight otherwise intended for the tree, leading to the following:

• Leaf chlorosis
• Wilting
• Premature leaf drop
• Nutrient deficiency (weakened health)

Climbing vines can girdle and kill trees

When vines take over the canopy of a tree, you may see green, healthy foliage (from the vine) mixed with wilting or dying foliage (from the tree). As the tree weakens, it will become susceptible to insect infestation and disease, compounding its health decline and hastening its death.

Solution: Sever the vine from its root system near the ground and let it die off. However, don’t try to remove the vine from the tree. As the vine was climbing, it anchored to the tree’s bark, any attempt to pull the vine down may severely damage the bark, resulting in the girdling of the tree.

To learn more on how to save your tree from clinging vines, read

Trees Changing Colors

Is your tree turning yellow or brown when it’s supposed to be green? There are several reasons that trees will change color, and many of those reasons may indicate serious problems that can kill the tree.

In this article, you discovered why trees change color in the fall, and problems that may lead them to change color and suffer leaf drop in the spring or summer months.

While it is normal for deciduous trees to change color in the fall, ignoring an off-season color change or leaf drop can lead to the death of your tree.


Todd’s Marietta Tree Services

200 Cobb Pkwy N Ste 428 Marietta, GA 30062
(678) 505-0266

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