Tree Not Growing Leaves in Spring? Try This Test To Check for Dead Tree

Man with hands on his hips in the chilly spring looks at three trees, two that have leaves and one tree without leaves and looking at the tree not growing leaves in spring seems perplexed.

It is common to find a deciduous tree not growing leaves in Spring, but that is not necessarily something to panic about.

While it could be an attack by pests and diseases, it could also be that the tree species is a late bloomer.

Knowing how to check whether your tree is dying is essential to avoid losing a tree to diseases. Some trees will have obvious signs of distress, but others will not be easy to spot.

This complete guide explains reasons why your tree is not growing leaves in Spring, and when to take action to help make sure it thrives.

Test To Check for Dead Tree

The first thing to do is determine whether the tree has died. This can be done by checking the trunk and branches

A dead tree will not be “green” under the bark.

To perform the test, you can take a small branch or twig and prune it off the tree. Check for the following:

  • Is the inside of the branch dry and brittle?
  • Is the inside of the branch moist and flexible?
  • Does the inside of the branch smell pleasant or stinky?

If the branch is dry or smelly, it’s a good chance the tree isn’t going to make it and will need to be removed.

However, if there’s moisture and a normal scent, your tree might be facing some other problem that is causing it to not grow leaves in Spring. The most common issues include pests, lack of water, or fungal growth.

Why Won’t My Tree Leaf Out? Reasons for Tree Not Growing Leaves in Spring

Most trees will start leafing out in Spring, which is why having a tree not growing leaves in Spring can be alarming.

However, there are a couple of reasons why your tree could be experiencing no leaf out.

Some of the reasons depend on the tree species, while others depend on the tree’s health. A tree that is not healthy cannot grow at the rate it is supposed to and might even die before it gets to the leafing process.

It is, therefore, very crucial that you understand your trees and take care of them in the right way to avoid killing them or delaying their growth process. Below are some of the things that cause late or no leaf out in Spring.

Cause #1: Certain Tree Species Are Late Bloomers

Different tree species do not grow at the same rate. That could be because of the tree’s characteristics or the conditions of its native habitat, which could have shaped how the tree develops.

Some trees will naturally take longer to develop any leaves even when all other trees are leafing out in Spring. They include trees like Crape Myrtle, Black walnut trees, and Black locust trees. These trees will never bloom in early Spring because of their characteristics.1

A lot of trees in the snow without leaves

(Image: Linaberlin5)

If you have a tree species that takes its sweet time to bloom, you should not worry when it does not show signs of leafing out in Spring. However, it could be easy to miss out on the distress of such a tree because it is expected to bloom later.

Check your trees regularly to see whether they are suffering from any diseases or are affected by anything else that could be fatal. Missing something like a fungal disease could kill your tree regardless of its expected bloom time.

Cause #2: Spring Fungal Diseases

Another reason why your trees are not growing leaves in Spring is the Spring fungal disease. Anthracnose is one of the most common Spring fungal diseases that affect trees like maples and oaks.2

  • Maple/ Ornamental Trees

Maple tree and ornamental trees are susceptible to Anthracnose tree disease and other weather conditions. When the cause is a fungal disease, you will need to check the tree for disease signs or talk to an arborist about it.

Spotting the disease symptoms early will help you treat the tree and avoid losing it altogether. Other trees like Sycamore, Ash, Oak, and Dogwood can be affected by the disease. If you notice your dogwood tree leaves curling, it could be because of a fungal disease.3

  • Elm and Oak Trees

You can identify different types of oak trees by leaf and know which species will behave in a certain way during the blooming period. However, most oak trees could be affected by the Anthraccrose tree disease in Spring.

One way to ensure that does not happen is constantly to check for disease signs on the trees. You can use the Oak tree leaf identification chart to help you determine how healthy oak tree leaves should look. That way, you will be able to identify a tree that is distressed.

Other tree leaves to look out for are the Birch tree leaves, Elm, and the Cottonwood tree leaf. Those trees could also fall victim to the Spring fungal disease and take longer to leaf out. If not treated early enough, your trees might not even leaf out if the Spring fungal disease attacks.

Cause #3: Other Factors

While fungal diseases and the nature of the tree are the main reasons why it could take longer to leaf out, there are other factors that affect how fast the tree grows. These factors could be a change in the weather or other forms of distress that drag the growing process of a tree.

Below are some of the most distressing factors that could affect your trees’ growth rate.

  • Damaging Storms and Winds

If you live in an area with heavy storms and strong winds, your trees could be delaying their growth process as a way to cope with that growing environment.

Strong winds and storms can damage the tree by ripping off the leaves and leaving the tree with no way to process its food.

Coconut trees being hounded by strong wind due to typhoon.

(Image: 120196)

Therefore, it could be one of the reasons that your tree looks dormant when it shouldn’t. When the storms subside, the tree will probably leaf out as it should.

There isn’t much you can do about storms and winds, but you can plant trees that can withstand harsh weather conditions.

  • Drought

Drought is another significant factor that can affect the growth rate of your trees.

If the land is dry and the tree does not have enough water, it will probably start hibernating to protect itself. If the situation persists, the tree will eventually dry up and die due to lack of water.

Tree Top without leaves

(Image: MabelAmber7)

Living in an area that constantly experiences drought means that most of the plants you have in your garden might not always survive.

It is, therefore important to plant the trees that were meant for desert conditions.

  • Overcrowding

While this might not be a very problematic factor like the ones above, it could also be the reason your tree is not growing. Overcrowding means that all the trees you have are fighting for the few resources available, and only a few will come out strong.

Planting trees apart from each other gives each tree a chance to grow to its highest potential. That is because it has enough space and resources to thrive.

You can plant many trees in your backyard but be careful not to overcrowd the place and kill some of your weak trees.

How To Get a Tree To Grow Leaves (Problems To Treat)

If you have a tree that should have started growing leaves and it is not, there could be a problem with the tree. However, the first thing to do before panicking about it is to identify whether your tree is one of the late bloomers. If it is, then you can wait a little longer as you observe how the tree behaves.

Please note that even late bloomers can be affected by diseases. That is why you should always check for disease signs on every tree you have, especially those that do not have any leaves in Spring.

The following signs can tell you whether or not your tree is dying.

Exposed and Detached Roots

Root damage is the most obvious sign of a dying tree. A tree with roots facing upwards and not holding onto the ground will soon fall.

That is because roots are what keep the tree grounded. If they are rotting or have dried up, then the tree is already in its last stages of life.

Brittle Bark

The tree’s bark should be a little firm and hold onto the tree. If you realize that the bark is falling off, the tree could be distressed.

Check for other signs to confirm whether the tree is dying and help save it.

No Leaves on Tree

Having no leaves is not necessarily a sign of a dying tree, but it could also indicate the same. When that happens on late-blooming trees, you should be patient and observe the tree as you wait.

However, when the no leaves on tree condition persist or the tree starts losing most of its leaves, your tree is probably dying.

Too Many Dried Branches

Branches are the ones that hold the leaves. If most of them are dry and there are sticks all over the ground, your tree is in distress.

In most cases, when almost all the branches have dried up, you cannot save the tree. Do something before most of the branches dry up.

Rot or Fungus

If you notice any part of your tree rotting, you should call an arborist immediately. A dying tree tends to rot at the base of the tree or forms a ring of rot around the trunk.

Such signs show that the tree could die soon if not treated.

No Green Under the Bark

A tree could have a bark that looks dry but is green on the inside. You can take a sharp object and scrape off part of the bark to expose the insides.

If you find some green inside of the bark, then usually your tree is okay. Try this test to check for dead trees.

Discolored Leaves

Leaves that have started changing color to brown or yellow could indicate disease or distress.

Also, if the leaves are curling or falling off, you should be very worried about the health of your trees.

Termites and Other Pests Infestation

Termites love hollow and dry trees to feed on and form a habitat. If your tree has termites all over it, check for other dead tree signs to see whether it is still living.

Chances are that the tree dried a long time ago and is about to drop.

Tree Not Growing Leaves in Spring: What Can I Do Now?

You can do a lot to save your tree or help it grow leaves. Below are some of the easiest ways to do that.

  • Talk to a tree specialist: Getting professional help for a tree with no leaves should be something you do after the basic dead tree tests and knowing whether your tree is a late bloomer.
  • Take good care of the tree: Always check on it to see how well it grows.
  • Mulch around the tree: This helps maintain the soil quality and conserve the water for the tree. Salt and snowplows could also help keep the area around the tree free from too much snow during the cold months.
  • Use preventative fungal sprays: They will help prevent Spring fungal diseases like Anthracnose.
  • Water the tree well: Not too much or too little water.

Spring is usually the season when most trees start growing leaves after the hibernation period. Therefore, deciduous trees in your yard should start showing signs of leafing out anytime in Spring.

However, some trees could take time to bloom, which should not raise the alarm as they will eventually. It is important to observe your trees carefully to know whether your tree not growing leaves in Spring is a sign of trouble or just delayed growth.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tree Not Growing Leaves in Spring

Why Are There No Leaves on the Tree?

Your tree could be in hibernation because of harsh weather conditions, or it is taking time to bloom.

Why Is My Ash Tree Not Growing Leaves in Spring?

If your ash tree is not growing leaves in spring, it could be infected with a Spring fungal disease or just take time to bloom due to a sudden weather change.

Should I Be Worried About My Tree Not Leafing Out?

That depends on the tree species and whether there are any signs of disease. You could do the bark test to see whether the tree is still alive. Try this test to check for dead tree, and if it turns out green on the inside, you should not worry.

Is Tree No Leaves on Top a Sign of Disease?

It could be. Contact a local arborist for assistance.

How Many Leaves Are in the World?

About 120,100,000,000,000,000 leaves.4

Can I Use an Identification Dogwood Tree Leaves Chart To Know if My Tree Is Dying?

Yes. The dogwood tree leaves chart will help you know how the tree should look when it’s healthy.

Read More About Tree Not Growing Leaves in Spring


1Elwell, J. (2020, July 20). Late Blooming Trees to Spice Up Your Summer. Casey Trees. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from <>

2Yen, H. (2022). Anthracnose | Description, Symptoms, & Control. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from <>

3Davey. (2017, May 18). Why Your Tree is Not Growing Leaves in Spring (Cherry, Elm & Ash). Davey. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from <>

4Micro B Life. (2022, July 19). How Many Leaves Are In The World. Micro B Life. Retrieved December 19, 2022, from <>

5Linaberlin. Pixabay. Retrieved from, <>

612019. Pixabay. Retrieved from, <>

7MabelAmber. Pixabay. Retrieved from, <>