Spring Tree & Pest Manual

Good day, sunshine! After a long, cold, lonely winter in Charlotte, NC, (♫) it’s finally time to open our windows, take a deep breath of fresh air, relax on the hammock, bask in the sunshine and when we’re feeling inspired: mulch, fertilize, and prune our trees! Right?

spring tree pests in north carolina

Spring Tree and Shrub Pruning

As stated by the Tree Care Industry Association, “The best time for tree health to prune would be in early spring following a carefully written pruning prescription.” The same goes for most shrubs as well. In other words, it’s springtime – let’s prune!

Want to learn more about pruning in any season? Read more here!

spring tree and shrub pruning in north carolina

Spring Tree and Shrub Treatments

Spring treatments, as you might expect, run from March through May. For some diseases, the right time to treat is when  new leaves and needles are beginning to form and it looks like the world is starting to come alive again. While there are many diseases and pests in the Charlotte and Concord, NC areas, here are some of the main culprits that you need to be on the lookout for.

Leaf Spot

Leaf spot diseases weaken trees and shrubs by reducing photosynthesis – the process by which a plant makes its food. Most leaf spot diseases only affect a small percentage of the plant’s overall leaf area and are a minor stress on the health of the plant. However, leaf spot diseases should be taken more seriously if they affect a large percentage of the plant’s overall leaf area and/or result in moderate to complete leaf loss, year after year. Leaf spot diseases can of be of fungal, bacterial, or viral origin, but fungally-based leaf spot diseases predominate. A foliar spray during new leaf expansion may be just what you need to keep leaf spot in check.

Needle Blight

In the Carolinas, needle blight (or needle cast) commonly affects Spruce, Leyland Cypress, and Cryptomeria trees. Look for healthy needles at the tips of your branches and dead, dying, or fewer needles as you look deeper inside the canopy. Foliar sprays targeted during the new needle growth period are used to control needle blights.


Aphids are tiny insects that find the leaves of your trees irresistibly delicious. Not only do aphids distort your leaves, but they also secrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which can lead to black fungus called sooty mold. Several soil-injected and spray treatment options are available to control aphids.

Want to read about Woolly Aphids? Check out our most read blog post ever: Uninvited Visitors.


Scale insects are tiny pests that often go unnoticed. They feed by sucking plant juices (sap) through a set of highly-modified mouthparts called stylets. Scales often grow exponentially and during large infestations, excessive sap loss from this feeding robs the plant of the critical nutrients – sometimes with fatal consequences. Like aphids, some scales excrete a sugary substance called honeydew, which can coat bark, leaves, and objects beneath the plant, leaving a sticky mess. Several soil-injected and spray treatment options are available to control scales.


Borers are insects that lay their eggs on the bark  of your trees and shrubs  – especially those that are already stressed or injured from weather-related damage or improper pruning. These eggs hatch and the larvae then eat their way through the bark  ultimately weakening or killing the host from within. For early detection, look for tiny exit holes on the bark or dieback at the branch tops in the top of the tree. For spring treatment, we typically recommend trunk-injection. An increasingly common borer in the Carolinas is the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), which we’ve covered extensively in our pages on Ash trees and on EAB sightings.


Mites are among the most difficult pests to control on trees and shrubs. They are not insects (6-legs), but are more closely related to spiders and ticks (8-legs). Like scales, mites feed by sucking plant juices (sap) through a set of highly modified mouthparts. They often reproduce quickly and during large infestations, excessive sap loss from this feeding robs the plant of the nutrients it needs to grow and compromises its defenses – sometimes with fatal consequences. Foliage with mite damage appears bronzed/rusted after the green color is lost from many tiny feeding spots. Heavily infested foliage can also become covered with an almost invisible webbing. Foliar sprays are typically used to control mites.

Keep the simple version.  When it comes to spring tree pests, what you can’t see may hurt you. Just kidding. We’re not into fear-based marketing! Instead, we’re simply here to help.

To read more about our many Plant Health Care (PHC) treatment options, from bark and foliar sprays to soil and trunk-injections, please read What PHC Treatment Options Are Out There.



spring tree and shrub treatments in Charlotte, NC

Common North Carolina Trees and Shrubs with Spring Pests and Diseases

As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” He may have been talking about fires, but the sage advice applies to tree and shrub care, as well.

Dogwood Trees

Dogwood is one of the most desirable trees to grow in the Carolinas as any drive around town will show. They’re gorgeous, but they can also be high-maintenance and picky about where they live. If planting a dogwood this spring, try to avoid a location with full sun. A dogwood in full sun becomes more prone to pests like the dogwood borer that can cause damage to the trunk and branches of your tree. Dogwood are also highly-susceptible to a fungal leaf spot disease called Dogwood Anthracnose. Eliminating existing leaf spot is not possible, so prevention is key.

Magnolia Trees

Simply put, Magnolias are a stunning addition to any Carolina yard. Whether you have a large Southern Magnolia tree fit for climbing or perhaps a smaller Sweetbay Magnolia enclosing your patio, the pest you will want to prevent before it causes significant damage is the Magnolia Scale. If scales are present, you may notice a sticky honeydew that attracts flies, wasps, or bees. As the infestation progresses, your trees may also lose their leaves or branches may begin to die. Several soil-injected and spray treatment options are available to control mites and Magnolia Scale.

Cherry Trees

North Carolina is home to Cherry trees that go by many names (e.g., Bing Cherry, Black Cherry, Wild Rum Cherry and, our favorite, Wild Cherry – play that funky music). These trees are wonderful for attracting wildlife like woodpeckers, bluebirds, and waxwings to eat their fruit and their flowers serve as excellent pollination partners for bees. Unfortunately, some unwanted insects (e.g., aphids, borers, scale) depend on the Cherry tree for food, as well. In the spring, you may see finger galls (do we have a pic?) as mites emerge.. As a species, Cherry trees are also highly prone to leaf spot diseases.  Eliminating existing leaf spot is not possible, so prevention is key. If your Cherry tree(s) had leaf spots or exhibited other symptoms of poor health in years past, please give us a call now so that we help before it’s too late.


Hackberry is the perfect tree to provide shade during a hot Carolina summer. It’s hearty and thrives in dry soil conditions; however, it’s also prone to insects and diseases. If you have Hackberry trees in your yard, look for powdery mildew, aphids, leaf spot or disfiguration, lace bugs, and scale. See more on the hackberry tree here: NC State Extension

Ash Trees

Ash trees, known for their beauty and shade, are abundant in North Carolina from the Green and White Ash found statewide, to the Carolina and Pumpkin Ash primarily found in the eastern half of the state. As you likely know, Ash trees across the U.S. have been under attack by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) since 2002. In the early spring, look for increased woodpecker activity or splitting bark. Later, once leafed out, tip dieback in the upper crown is earliest and most common symptom. If caught soon enough, EAB can be successfully treated and prevented through trunk-injections.

Crape Myrtle Trees

We southerners love our Crape Myrtles! Nothing beats the clusters of pink blooms that last from season to season. And Crape Myrtles survive the hot, dry summers in full sun locations with ease. They’re relatively trouble-free, but they can be susceptible to scale, leaf spot and fungal diseases. Because Crape Myrtle is a fan favorite, we have dedicated a few popular blog posts to the subject.

Nutrient Deficiencies Depending on the species, trees and shrubs require 16-19 essential elements to grow and thrive. An element is considered essential, if the plant cannot complete its life cycle without it and if the element is directly involved in the plant’s metabolism. Deficiencies are common in the highly altered soils of urban landscapes.

For the majority of trees and shrubs, Carolina Tree Service provides general fertilization services via soil-injection. This application method delivers missing nutrients directly to the roots and avoids the turf competition, surface runoff, and unintended product loss associated with surface broadcast methods.  For a more tailored approach, we also offer prescription fertilization services upon request. This is a high-end service where the soil is sampled, sent to a soil testing lab, and a custom soil-injected fertilization is applied based on the unique soil test results.For new planting purposes, this service is also helpful to ensure a given site will support a particular tree or shrub species.

Some of you may be asking, “Isn’t fertilization a DIY project?” Absolutely. Many property owners perform surface broadcast fertilization with a rotary or drop spreader. The moderate risks of this do-it-yourself approach can be either under fertilizing (i.e., not effective) or over fertilizing (i.e., using too much or the wrong product). This method also results in more turf competition, surface runoff, and unintended product loss to the environment. Detrimental effects of the latter two can introduce excess nutrients to surface water resources causing harmful algal blooms, amongst other things.

Did you know? According to the U.S. Forest Service, metropolitan areas across the country lose around 28.5 million trees every year due to disease, invasive species, natural disasters, urban development, root system damage, and inadequate tree care. We’re here to help with your municipal tree care, too.

In Charlotte, NC, you may see trees stuck between the sidewalk and the curb. This is the ideal opportunity to ensure your trees, and their root systems, remain healthy and thriving in their limited space – and maximize the curb appeal of your home.  Read: Trees Are Key to Fighting Urban Heat but Cities Keep Losing Them.

common North Carolina trees and shrubs with spring pests and diseases

Carolina Tree Care would love to work with you.

Contact us today and work with a team you can trust and will understand the importance of long-term care for your trees.

Request a Consultation