Is My Tree Dormant or Dead?

Date March 08, 2022


Author TreeNewal Staff

Is your tree dormant or dead? This is a question we get asked a lot here at TreeNewal, and it’s not always an easy one to answer. Here in Dallas, we have such a mixture of warm winters and sudden freezes which means our trees often don’t go through the same type of dormancy as trees in other parts of the country. However, there are some key things you can look for that will help you determine whether your tree is just taking a winter nap, or if it has actually died.

What Does It Mean When a Tree Is Dormant

Dormancy is a multi-stage process where trees and plants halt their growth to stash away energy so that they can survive throughout the whole winter without needing additional watering or nutrition. You want to see your tree shed all its browned leaves to make room for a complete turnover come next spring.

How to Bring a Tree Out of Dormancy

  • Did you know: It takes around only 60 days of temperatures below 40 degrees for a tree to fully go through the process of dormancy.

If for some reason your tree is not coming out of dormancy on its own and you’re concerned, the best thing you can do is call a trained professional to assess the situation. There may be something wrong with your tree’s health and immediately turning to a heat lamp or doubling up on fertilizer may end up accidentally making the problem worse. So, to be on the safe side, get a second opinion from a pro on handling a struggling tree.

With spring just around the corner, TreeNewal has a 3 Step Process for checking if your tree is still dormant or may be in trouble.

How to Tell If a Tree Is Dormant or Dead

New Buds and Shoots

  • Dormant: Check the branch tips on your trees closely for any visible signs of budding. These live buds and shoots are sure indicators your tree is preparing to wake up.
  • Trouble: If your trees are lacking visible buds or their buds are dried and shriveled, there’s cause for concern. Dried or dead leaves still hanging on to branches from the previous fall also call for further investigation.


Healthy Bark

  • Dormant: As the natural protective layer of your trees against pests, disease, and any environmental stressors, healthy bark is a good sign of a healthy tree.
  • Trouble: Notice any curious holes or funny fungal textures on the bark? Are your trees cracking or peeling anywhere? These changes need a look from an arborist to assess if your tree is at risk. Even if it’s a small section or minor amount, you’ll want quick action to prevent any problem from turning into a big one.


The Scratch Test

  • Dormant: As the name suggests, take a pocketknife or even just your fingernail to gently scratch a small portion of the tree’s branch. If hydrated hues of green are revealed, your tree is doing just fine.
  • Trouble: However, if the bark is frail and/or a shade of brown, this is cause for concern. After scratch testing, a few more branches, try gingerly bending a branch or two. If there’s a quick snap, some swift pruning maybe your best solution.


I Think My Tree May Be Dead

So, you’ve gone through the 3 Step Process and think your tree may be done for. As we advised earlier, it’s best to get a second opinion before taking any additional measures. If in fact your tree has died or is in the late stages of dying, it likely will need to be removed to avoid attracting any unwanted pests and risking any dead tree limbs or the entire tree falling over. Make sure you’ve called on ISA-Certified Arborists to safely handle the case.

How Can TreeNewal Help?

As the weather starts to warm up, it’s a good time to start thinking about getting your trees ready for spring. Check out our recent post all about Pre-Spring Tree Care Tips to help you get started as your trees wake up from dormancy! If you’re still not sure whether your tree is dormant or dead, don’t worry – TreeNewal can help you figure out your tree’s needs and how best to care for them. Contact us today for more information!

If you need help with tending to your dormant or declining trees, get in touch with the ISA-certified arborists at TreeNewal and enjoy tailored tree care advice.

To learn more about Is My Tree Dormant or Dead?, call our Argyle and Southlake-based teams

at tel:(817) 592-6846 or send us a message.

We’re a little different than the average tree services company.

Learn more about TreeNewal’s ISA Certified Arborists!

Our Dallas/Fort Worth-based tree doctors can explain how sustainable tree care services add more value to your bottom line.

Healthy trees, healthy lives.