Now that you're ready to begin the diagnostic process, here are some questions to get you started on your investigation.


  • What kind of plant is it?
  • How old is it?
  • Has it always been healthy?
  • Are there other examples of this plant nearby? How are they doing?

Abiotic (non-living) considerations:

  • Where do you live?
  • What was last winter like?
  • What is your soil like?
  • Is road salt or sidewalk salt an issue?
  • Do you water it?
  • Was there any flooding in the area? Are there any sloughs nearby?
  • What is around or near the tree/shrub?
    • Sidewalk, driveway, road, house
    • Garden, grass
    • Anything damage the bark?
      • Lawnmower, trimmer
      • Animals: rabbits, mice, deer
      • Ropes, ties, hammocks, swings

Leaf related:

  • Examine leaves in several regions including new leaves at the end of the branches as well as older leaves more interior to the plant. Depending on the plant, not all leaves on the same plant will be shaped or coloured identically even on healthy plants. Your initial examination is looking for leaves that are obviously different from a healthy leaf.
  • Are the leaves an unusual colour? Note that it is normal for most plants to "drop" leaves that are no longer productive, typically older leaves that are now shaded by new growth. Some plants, such as Schubert chokecherries normally start out green and mature into a black colour. Here, we are looking for abnormal colouring such as:
    • a speckling of colour across the leaf
    • white lines along the leaf
    • black spots, tips, or regions
    • browning (often associated with leaf dryness)
    • overall bleaching of the leaf to a yellow or white
    • the leaf veins look significantly darker than the rest of the leaf
  • Is there any wrinkling, rolling, pinching or cupping?
  • Are there holes in the leaves? Are they more rips, punctures, or missing pieces? Do they have jagged or smooth edges?

Planting related:

  • When was it planted? What time of year?
  • Container-grown, balled and burlapped, or seeded into place?
  • How big was the plant when it was planted? What condition was it in?
  • What did the roots look like?
  • Describe how you planted it? How big was the hole?
  • Did you amend the soil?
  • Did you add any mycorrhizae or fertilizer?
  • How often/how much was it watered after planting?
  • Was the tree staked? If so, for how long?
  • Where is the trunk flare located in relation to the soil level?
  • Is the plant mulched?