Camellia Care in Tallahassee

Camellia Care in Tallahassee

When landscapes feel barren during our winter months in north Florida, any bursts of color you see are likely coming from Camellias. For centuries, these evergreen shrubs have been the choice of royalty and common gardeners alike. Luckily, camellia care is easy – the harder part is choosing among the thousands of varieties.

The Sasanqua and Japonica species are most common in the Big Bend, with thousands of hybrids producing a wide array of flower forms and sizes. Both species are evergreen, able to provide privacy as hedges or grown alone to provide cool weather color. The Japonica species tends to be larger in size while the Sasanqua species tends to have smaller but more numerous flowers with more notable fragrance.

Camellia Sasanqua

  • Mature size: 6 – 10 feet high and wide
  • Sun: Can tolerate part to full sun, preferring a sunny spot without harsh afternoon sun
  • Soil: Well drained with neutral to slight acidity
  • Bloom time: Late summer through the holidays. October – December
  • Flowers: Smaller than Japonica, but more numerous and fragrant

Camellia Japonica

  • Mature size: 7-12 feet high, 5-10 feet wide, upright growth
  • Sun: Blooms best with six hours sun per day. Avoid harsh afternoon sun to avoid sunburn
  • Soil: Can range from acidic to neutral or slightly acidic
  • Bloom time: Late winter, potentially staying through spring. December – March
  • Flowers: Larger than Sasanquas leaves and flowers

A local camelia: Tallahassee Girl – light pink with yellow anthers

TIP: If you enjoy growing your own herbs for tea, consider including Camellia sinensis in your plantings.

Commonly called the Tea Camellia, this hardy evergreen is heat and drought tolerant, growing well in full sun. Young leaves and leaf buds are used for green tea, older leaves for black tea and the buds for white tea. Keeping it pruned to under 5 feet produces the most options for tea, also making it a candidate for growing in a large pot.

Planting Your Camellias

November through February are the preferred planting times in north Florida. Late spring or summer is a possibility if camellia care is a top priority. Camellia roots prefer the cooler months without hot sun for development, so keep this in mind when planning your purchases.

When selecting where to plant your camellias, avoid full shade. Partial to more sun is needed to develop a strong plant and healthy blooms. Camellia sasanqua will tolerate more sun while japonica prefers partial shade, but neither will tolerate the hot, harsher afternoon sun we have here in the Big Bend.

DO NOT plant too deep! The root ball of a camellia plant must be 1-2- inches above the soil line. This allows for some sinking and gives the roots a chance to breathe. For optimum camellia care, it’s best to maintain a 2–3-inch layer of mulch in the root zone to conserve moisture. Be sure to mulch close, but not over the root ball to allow air exchange.

After the first camellia is in the ground, you may be tempted to plant others closer because the young plants look smaller once planted. Keep in mind that their average size once mature is between 5-10 feet in width. Planting them too close together now means crowding and lack of air flow in a few years, leading to pests and disease.

Pruning Your Camellias

Camellia care includes proper pruning to remove damaged or dead branches and allow air flow through the plant. The good news is most camellias maintain a consistent shape, minimizing pruning. When a wayward branch heads in the opposite direction, remember pruning is best done in late winter or early spring, after the blooming season.

One type of pruning to avoid is shearing – taking off the top of the plants in a row to create a hedge of same height camellias. Shearing destroys the shape of camellias, causing them to try recreating their natural form. This results in dense outer layers that minimize air flow and light reaching the inner branches, causing loss of leaves and risk of disease.

Propagating Your Camellias

You may love your camellias so much, you decide you want to try propagation. Seeds do not give consistent results, so you will find most camellias are propagated from cuttings or layering. These methods ensure the new plants will have the characteristics of the parent plant.

Layering is a good introduction to propagation, potentially yielding a new plant in a matter of months. It requires selecting a stem with new growth, about 18-24 inches long, then removing part of the bark. For air layering, sphagnum moss is used to create a rooting environment when wrapped around the exposed bark. You can use a similar method, simply called layering, that encourages rooting of the exposed bark once it is bent to the ground and covered with soil.

Whether you chose cutting, grafting or a form of layering, there are a variety of resources available that will walk you through the process step-by-step. When searching, start with the general term of “propagating camellias” getting more specific with “air layering camellias” or other choices as you progress.

Where to Find Out More About Camellias

We are fortunate in Tallahassee to have a variety of nurseries with knowledgeable staff ready to help you with your selection and camellia care questions. You may find like-minded people in clubs – including the Tallahassee Camelia Society that meets monthly from October to May. There is also the Tallahassee Garden Club, a gathering of gardening enthusiasts since 1926, which hosts monthly plant exchanges for their 500-plus members. There is no shortage of resources both local and online for you to continue learning about camelias, including ways to expand your collection.

At Miller’s Tree Service, we care about your landscape – trees and camellias, azaleas and crape myrtles. When you have one of our arborists out for a free tree removal consultation, ask about replacement ideas and help sprucing up under your live oak. Our crews are proud about the care we show in cleaning up after a job, leaving your yard as clean, or cleaner, than when we started. Tallahassee is our home too, so keeping it beautiful – and safe – is our goal.

Call 850.894.8733 to plan your next tree planting, trimming or removal. We will always go out on a limb for you!

The Right Tool for Pruning Tallahassee Trees

Having the right tool for pruning can make all the difference in securing a better outcome for your trees. This is particularly true when it comes to cutting back suckers at the base of your tree and removing dead limbs. Shears and saws are generally the tools of choice when pruning, but not all work the same. The choice of which tool to use comes down to location on the tree, size of the growth needing cut and any physical considerations of the person pruning.

Pruning Shears

Bypass Shears

For smaller suckers and the ends of limbs, pruning shears are the right tool for pruning. Consisting of two blades with handles usually fitting in a single hand, there are three type of shears. Sometimes referred to as cutting scissors, bypass shears have blades that cross one another as the branch is being cut in between blades. These are best used on the smallest suckers or limb parts. One thing to be aware of with bypass pruners is both blades must be sharp on the cutting edge for a good cut to occur.

Anvil ShearsOn the other hand, anvil shears need a single sharp blade that comes down onto a flat surface, or anvil. The single blade is sharpened on both sides, leading to slightly more tolerance when dullness occurs. Anvil shears make clean cuts and can potentially handle larger diameter cuttings, depending on wood thickness and blade condition.

Ratchet Shears

If you have concerns about muscle strength or joint issues, a ratchet shears may be a great solution. As the name suggests, the blades begin a cut, latching into place with a ratchet-like mechanism. When you let up on the tension, the blades remain in place, waiting for your next squeeze. The mechanics of a ratchet pruner leverages your strength, essentially stabilizing and multiplying your efforts. It’s especially nice that the blades remain in place without constant pressure.

Loping shears

Loping shears are in-between the single hand shears and pruning saws. With longer handles, they are the right tool for pruning smaller twigs above arm length without a ladder. For those who have difficulty kneeling down, loping shears are great for clipping suckers at ground level. They are heavier than pruning shears so arms and shoulders can become fatigued quickly, so pace yourself. If you have branches that are higher than loping shears can reach or thicker than a ratchet pruner can handle, it’s time to switch to saws as a solution.

Pruning and Pole Saws

There is a wide variety of saws available for pruning, varying in blade length and handle shape. Most pruning saws cut 1 ½- to 5-inch diameter branches with anything above that better suited to powered versions such as chain saws. One thing pruning and pole saws have in common is a metal blade with teeth designed for cutting to be done in a back and forth, push/pull motion.

Pruning Saw

Pruning saws with straight blades and curved handles are easier to hold and are good choices for new wood and lighter duty tasks. Curved blades are generally stronger, suited for heavier duty tasks but can be awkward in tight spaces. If portability is important, consider stocking your pruning kit with a folding saw. Coming in a wide variety of sizes, the saw blade folds inward toward the handle for easier and safer storage.

Pole Saw (closeup)

Pole SawFor higher branches and limbs, consider a pole saw. Often a single blade mounted on a pole, these saws allow you to reach much higher into a tree without climbing a ladder. Some have the option for shear-like cutters at the end of the pole; the choice depends on availability and personal preference. Poles also vary from fixed length to telescoping, 6 feet to more than 15 feet long. If you have a limb that exceeds the height of your pole, it’s time to bring out a ladder and your personal protective gear.

Pruning Safety

Before you begin ANY pruning, it’s time to break out the safety gear. Just like having the right tool for pruning gives you a better outcome, the right gear gives you a safer pruning experience. Work gloves will protect your hands from hidden hazards like thorn vines and safety glasses protect your eyes from falling debris. A short list to have on hand includes:

  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves
  • A sturdy, long sleeved shirt
  • Thick pants
  • Closed toe shoes (preferably work boots with hard toes and thick soles)
  • A hard hat/helmet

Include any helpers you have, even if they are not actively pruning. It is not unheard of for someone removing debris to step on a sharp sucker or be snagged by a leafy limb. Sturdy shoes and safety goggles can make the difference between a slight stumble or medical emergency.

NOTE: If the tree limbs or branches are too large for pruners, using the right tool still applies, this time with equipment such as chain saws. Wearing protective gear and knowing proper operation and care of equipment is critical for safe operation. Follow manufacturer’s instructions and wear appropriate safety gear, even if dealing with only one branch.

If your pruning is overhead, the same focus on safety applies, plus some. Before climbing any ladders, review the Ladder Safety page available at the American Ladder Institute website: Even if you think it’s a five-minute job, have someone there to keep the ladder steady and be on the lookout for other hazards. In the Big Bend area, a few things to remember are wasps and bees like trees too – so remind your helper to look up, down and around!

Properly pruned trees are healthier and less likely to succumb to diseases and storm damage. But improper trimming may cause damage, inviting rot or infestations. If you are not sure where to begin or prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, we completely understand. Instead, you can schedule one of our arborists to come out for a free consultation. We love talking about trees and landscaping any time of the year! Call Miller’s Tree Service at 850.894.8733 for consultations, estimates or emergencies.

When Trees Go Down in a Storm – 9 Tips on What to Expect After Severe Weather

When a severe weather or a hurricane causes damage in Tallahassee, our top priority will be homes hit by trees. In a case of widespread damage, downed trees in yards will be scheduled after those on homes.

In times of emergency, Miller’s Tree Service has a large team to help service our area as best as possible. We will have at least 12 crews and at least 6 cranes at our disposal to help with emergency clean up.

Tree on house after severe weather.

Here are a few things to remember no matter which tree company you use:

  1. Call us first, then your insurance company, then a roofer or contractor of choice. Have your insurance information ready at the time of the call.
  2. Do not pay any vendor up front for any work and always ask for a copy of their insurance.
  3. We know it is a difficult time, but please be patient! Thousands of calls will be coming in and they will be prioritized based on location, severity and order of the call.
  4. We will only be handling trees on houses and structures until those are cleared up.
  5. If you have trees in your yard, they will have to wait until trees on houses are finished. You can still call us to get in the queue for yard clean up.
  6. Please understand, your yard may get damaged. With it being very wet and a large volume of work to do, your yard and driveway may get damaged more than if it was a regular tree job. We will make every effort to minimize this damage, but in emergency situations, we can’t spend extra time trying to protect the yard.
  7. Once the tree is removed from your house, it may be weeks before we get back to do a final cleanup of your yard. Again, be patient, as there is a large volume of damage across town.
  8. Your debris will be stacked by the road possibly for weeks. We will either give you a price to haul it later, or the city or FEMA will haul it.
  9. We will not be tarping or repairing roofs. Have a roofer or contractor on your short list of vendors.


Thank you for trusting us through the years with all of your tree care needs. We love our community and pride ourselves on our quality of work and the relationships we build with each customer. Call us for the emergency of a downed tree at 850.894.TREE (8733). Please be safe and God Bless!


How to Identify Florida Oak Trees Around Tallahassee


mature southern live oak

Southern Live Oak


There are around 600 oak varieties in the world, 90 of which are native to the United States. Considering oak trees have a wide variety of leaf shapes – sometimes on the same tree – it’s no wonder people get confused between laurel and live oaks. We have put together an article with some of the popular oaks in our area so you can identify the trees by their leaves and acorns. The accompanying notes will also help you identify potential issues and decide on new varieties for your landscape.

Southern Live Oak

For all of the southern live oak’s spreading glory, it has one of the plainer leaves and smaller acorns on our list. It is also one of the more evergreen, with new leaves emerging as old ones are being dropped. When thinking about how to identify Florida oak trees, a mature southern live oak is the easiest with its widespread growth habit and unpredictable limb structure. It is also one of the most desirable trees for the strength of its limbs and long life.

Mature size: 50’ tall x 150’ wide   Average life span: 500+ years
Annual growth: 24-36”   Considered a stable and desirable tree.

southern live oak

Water Oak

A fast-growing, short-lived tree that can reach up to 70 feet, water oaks are used for short-term shade solutions. If you have one of these in your yard you already know that it is considered a weak tree, dropping branches on a regular basis. Any trimming of a water oak near a house needs to be done by a professional – improper cuts may lead to rot within the tree. Water oaks can be big acorn producers, a redeeming quality for those looking to attract wildlife.

Mature size: 70’ tall x 60’ wide   Average life span: 30-50 years
Annual growth: 24”   A good tree for wildlife but unstable and short-lived in landscapes.

water oak

Shumard Oak

Often found in parking lots and commercial landscaping, Shumard oaks are tolerant of a wide range of soils and conditions. These trees can grow to over 80 feet, sporting classic oak-shaped leaves up to 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Considered a moderately fast-growing deciduous tree, it provides shade in the summer and allows sun in the winter.

Mature size: 80’ tall x 70’ wide   Average life span: 100-200 years
Annual growth: 24”   A large tree well suited for a variety of locations.

Shumard Oak

Pin Oak

How to identify Florida oak trees when the leaves look similar? That is a question that comes up occasionally between the Shumard and pin oak leaves. Think of the pin oak leaves as coming to a “point” (or two) at the end and Shumard’s as being “showy.” You are also more likely to find the pin oak trees gathered near low-lying areas, tolerating wet feet during dormant months. The trees themselves can vary in height, considered medium to large trees depending on location and soil conditions.

Mature size: 50’ – 120’ tall  Average life span: 120 years
Annual growth: 24”   Popular as an ornamental tree and low spots in landscaping.

Pin oak


Laurel Oak

Another fast-growing, short-lived tree that can reach up to 100 feet, laurel oaks are considered evergreen, offering year-round shade. New leaves emerge while previous leaves are just beginning to drop, keeping the tree looking green year round. It is considered an ornamental tree that likes sandy soil. The leaves are small – 2”-4” in length and are smooth, requiring raking when old leaves drop to avoid slipping and falls.

Mature size: 80’ tall x 60’ wide   Average life span: 50-70 years
Annual growth: 24-36”   A fast maturing tree best planted as an ornamental.

laurel oak

Southern Red Oak

Southern red oak has leaves that vary from rounded edges to points, turning red and falling in colder temperatures. This tree prefers dry, sandy uplands with a range from New Jersey to Florida, extending west to Oklahoma and Texas. Acorns produced from trees in the red oak family tend to be more bitter than white oak varieties due to more tannins. Southern red oaks can grow quite large with lumber used for construction and furniture.

Mature size: 60’ – 90’ tall  Average life span: 150 years
Annual growth: 12”-36”  Deciduous tree with medium life span for dry, sandy soils.

southern red oak

Swamp Chestnut Oak

Also known as a cow oak, the acorns are sweet enough to eat raw without boiling. They are favorites of cows and other wildlife, making the swamp chestnut oak popular for those involved with habitat restoration. The leaves are not a classic oak shape – rather they are more oval with the widest part past the middle and an underside of thick fuzz.

Mature size: 50’ tall x 40’ wide   Average life span: 100+ years
Annual growth: 12”-24”   An excellent tree for wildlife with large, tasty acorns.

swamp chestnut oak

Willow Oak

Named for its leaf resembling that of a willow tree, most willow oaks can also be found near streambeds and rivers. Unlike its namesake, the branches are horizontal, and the overall tree shape is pyramidal. Willow oaks are easily transplanted because of their shallow root system. The oak’s acorns are also an important food source for wildlife.

Mature size: 40’ tall x 60’ wide   Average life span: 100 years
Annual growth: 13” – 24”   A more delicate branching system with good forage for wildlife.

willow oak leaf and acorn
At Miller’s Tree Service we understand people becoming attached to a tree that has been on their family property through generations or one recently planted with hopes for the future. If you have concerns about one of your special trees, call us sooner rather than later so we can help keep your trees healthy, or remove a problem tree so others can thrive. We will literally go out on a limb for you! Call 850.894.8733.






Quick Reference for Top 5 Palm Trees in Zone 8

Living in Tallahassee, we have chilly winter days and long, humid summers. With those winter freeze warnings comes the USDA designation of Zone 8 for plants, meaning palm trees that thrive in Miami’s Zone 10 will not survive our cold snaps. We have put together a handy guide showing five palm trees that thrive in and around the Tallahassee area. There are additional varieties available, especially if you are looking for indoor plant options. But these five are solid choices for enhancing your existing landscaping or serve as inspiration for a new focal point. Read the accompanying blog here.

Click here for your printable PDF of the Best Palm Trees for North Florida: 


A Tallahassee Guide to the Best Palm Trees for North Florida

Palm trees come in all shapes and sizes, but not all are meant for our Tallahassee weather. Luckily, some of the most beautiful palm trees for North Florida offer a wide variety of choices in frond shape, height and silhouette. Whether you chose the shorter Pindo or taller Sabal palm, be aware that palms are different from trees with their own best practices for care.

What is in a Zone and Why it Matters

Pick up any plant label and you see a hardiness zone number. The U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the United States into zones ranging from 1-13 with Zone 1 being the coldest and Zone 13 the warmest. If a palm has a temperature range of Miami’s Zone 11, planting it in Tallahassee’s Zone 8 means it will likely not survive our colder winter temperatures. The following palms are hardy for Tallahassee, ready to enhance your existing landscape or inspire a new design.


European Fan Palm

European Fan Palms grow to a hiegy of ten feet tall with finely defined frond. They look good left full or trimmed up to look like a tree.

European Fan Palm









If you are looking for a smaller option that will be as wide as it is tall, the European fan palm is a fitting solution. Considered a slow-growing, clumping palm, the fronds are held out on a shorter stem, spreading outward in thin fingers. The color may range from a light green to silver, making it an excellent focal point or filler solution. The average size is 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide with an average cold tolerance is Zone 8.

The European fan palm can be grown with multiple plants close to each other, forming a mound of fronds. It can also have the fronts trimmed from the ground up, creating the look of a small palm tree. Because of the smaller size (at least compared to other palms) most landscape designers would suggest planting two or three trimmed trees close together to create a focal point.


Pindo Palm

Pindo Palm


On the list of best palm trees for North Florida, the Pindo palm is one of the most popular. With an average height of 15 feet or more, the Pindo has large, graceful fronds that arch out and away from the tree. Colors for Pindo fronds range from green to a beautiful blue-grey. Rated for Zone 8, this beautifully fronded palm is perfect for Tallahassee landscapes

You may hear “Jelly Palm” when people are discussing potential landscape additions. The Pindo is well known for the fruit it produces that can be made into jelly by industrious canners. Some Pindo owners see the yearly fruit as a bonus – and others prefer to remove the fruit before it ripens. Though the fruit is not considered harmful to dogs, it may give your family pet an upset stomach, so it’s better to avoid indulging their Pindo fruit cravings.


Windmill Palm

Windmill Palm


One of the most cold-hardy on our list of palm trees for North Florida, the windmill palm is rated for Zone 7. Able to tolerate temperatures down to the single digits, the fronds are also strong enough to handle snow accumulation. Though snow is not something we worry about in Tallahassee, it is nice to know your windmill palm will be just fine through the frost warnings.

Windmill palms have a trunk covered in a loose mat of coarse fiber, topped by distinctive fronds that grow upward and outward. The fronds are wide, made up of narrow seams with a little give at the ends. As a slow grower with a top height of around 20 feet, you may see the dark green to yellow-green frond tops when the windmill is small, later on enjoying the silvery tones on the underside as the tree matures.


Sabal Palm

Sabal Palm


Of course we are going to have the state tree of Florida on our list! Also known as the cabbage palm, the sabal is one of the few palms that have a high tolerance for cold (Zone 7), salt and drought once established. As a slow grower, it can take years for it to reach an average height of 40 feet, with trees in the wild growing taller.

Sabal palms are native to Florida and have long been a staple in urban and suburban settings. Usually grown upright, the trunk can also be trained to bend, running above the ground before turning upward. The fronds are a darker green, forming a dense canopy at the top of the tree. The “boot” or base part of the frond may be left behind when a frond dies and falls from the tree. Some sable palms will have boots halfway down the trunk, while others will be boot free.


Mexican Fan Palm

Mexican Fan Palm


Known for being fast-growing and drought-tolerant, the Mexican fan palm is the tallest palm on our list of best palm trees for North Florida. With average heights spanning between 70-100 feet, these trees are often seen planted along highways and adjacent to tall buildings. For homeowners, the Mexican fan palm, also known as a Washingtonia, looks great in open lawns and is rated for our area as Zone 8.

The Mexican fan palm trunk starts out a reddish brown, eventually turning gray as it matures. Medium green fronds are wide, with lower fronds growing outward from the trunk and newer, higher fronds growing upward. Mexican fan palms are considered to be long living with robust canopies from 10 to 100 feet.


Do’s and Don’ts of Palm Care

One of the most important things to remember about palm trees is that they have no bark to protect their trunks like oaks or pines. You want to make every effort to avoid damage during moving, pruning, fertilizing or mowing.

  • Do make sure your palm has the correct amount of sunlight. Light requirements vary with too little sun leading to weak and spindly growth, and too much sun scalding the leaves and threatening the palm.
  • Do fertilize your palms during the warm months, staying away from the trunk where the roots may be burned. Be sure to use the correct mix of nutrients in the correct amounts.
  • Don’t cause root damage. Palm roots tend to grow laterally, so be careful with any digging near your palms. Palm roots are fragile so remember that when you are planting, handle with care and never expose the roots directly to fertilizer.
  • Don’t The best way to avoid overwatering your new palm is to ensure good drainage. You can add sand to the soil in up to a 50% ratio. New palms should be watered every day for the first week. That’s why you do not want water hanging around in heavy clay, rotting new roots.
  • Do prune away dead fronds if your palm is close to a dwelling. Some pests like to make their homes in the “hula skirt” made by a collection of dead fronds laying against the trunk. On the other hand, butterflies and birds also benefit from the same habitat, so it is up to the individual homeowner how to handle the hula.

At Miller’s Tree Service, we understand the varying needs of palms growing in North Florida. It can tricky to prune palms without damaging the trunks – you will never see our crews climbing a palm tree with spikes unless we are there for removal. For trimming fronds on taller palms we use our bucket trucks, lifting our professional trim crew to the proper location along the palm trunk.

If you have questions about the different varieties of palms that will work in your yard, give us a call and one of our arborists will come out for a free consultation. We love talking about the health of your existing trees and any plans for new ones, too. Call us for the emergency of a downed tree or schedule pruning and fertilization anytime at 850.894.TREE (8733).

Download your handy palm tree guide here. Take it with you when shopping for a palm, make notes on the back!

Recovering from Summer Storm Damage in Tallahassee

tree showing lightening scar in bark

Heat, humidity and summer thunderstorms are part of living in the Tallahassee area. Many afternoons, the sound of thunder means a quick rain shower at work that may or may not extend to watering your flowers at home. When the winds pick up and the lightning strikes close, we know summer storm damage ranges from possible to likely.

 Lightning Facts for You and Your Trees

Did you know that a strike of lightning can produce temperatures of 50,000 degrees? Lightning is one of the most dramatic and dangerous forces of nature, for people and trees. The U.S. Forest Service suggests staying sheltered for 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder and staying low to the ground away from trees and water if caught outdoors.

FACT #1: Do NOT seek shelter under a tree during a thunderstorm. Falling limbs and lightning strikes are a real danger when near trees.

Lightning takes the path of least resistance, making tall trees a natural target. Depending on the tree, its water content and the intensity of the strike, damage can vary from minimal scarring to the tree exploding. Imagine the 50,000 degrees of a strike combining with a high water content tree and you have an eruption, destroying a tree. The electrical charge of a strike also travels through the roots and may impact nearby plantings.

tree showing lightening scar in bark

Lightening scar on tree.

FACT #2: Trees struck by lightning may survive, depending on severity of strike and after care.

If your tree has been struck by lightning but is still intact, arborists suggest waiting to see if the tree recovers. Even if scarring occurs, the tree can regenerate root systems and heal around lost bark. Be sure to water and care for the tree as normal, consulting an arborist with any questions about fertilization or pruning.

FACT #3: Do not use wound sealer on exposed bark or pruned areas. It may seal in pests or bacteria that may harm the tree.

Cleaning Up Summer Storm Damage Safely  

After the thunder recedes and it is safe to venture out after a summer storm, there is usually some debris scattered across the yard. During more severe storms, high winds can cause branches to fall or weak spots in trees to split. If heavy rain has occurred, uprooted trees become a possibility, falling across streets, fences and houses.

SAFETY TIP #1: The CDC suggests taking extra care when cutting or moving debris bent or caught under something else. A branch may snap or cause other materials to shift, fall or break unexpectedly, putting you at risk of injury.

Tree Damage and Debris

After a severe storm you may find one or more branches hanging from a tree. It can be tempting to grab ahold and pull, but the odds are good that pulling from the ground will bring down more than the single branch. If a tree service is on the way, let them take care of partially fallen branches. They will likely assess the situation from above, cutting the limb away from the tree and dropping in smaller pieces to avoid additional damage to the trunk.

If a limb or tree has fallen directly on your house, contact the emergency number of your trusted tree service. Take what pictures you can in case they can be used later for insurance, maintaining a distance from the house if the structural integrity is in question. In the instance that power has also been impacted or standing water is involved, move cautiously to a clear area.

Downed power lines and tree debris after storm.

SAFETY TIP #2: Do not approach any downed power lines or drive through standing water in their vicinity. If lines are tangled in a downed tree, do not attempt to move or cut any art of the tree. The power company will need to inspect the lines and cut any power feeds before tree removal can be attempted.

Tree Recovery after a Storm

When limbs break away from a tree, subsequent damage should be assessed for the continuing health of the tree. If multiple branches have broken, opening the canopy and exposing the trunk, sun scald could become a concern. When dealing with a damaged tree, talk to a certified arborist to determine the best course of action going forward. It is best to take care of any storm related issues as soon as possible before pests or decay set in, creating a future hazard.

Questions to ask an arborist about storm damaged trees.

  • Is the tree damaged beyond repair or is it likely to heal with time?
  • Is this a desirable tree to keep? If the damage is significant or the tree is near the end of life, it may the best time to remove and start anew.
  • Will the tree maintain its shape?
  • Did the trunk/bark experience too much damage? The tissue that is directly behind the bark is the part that handles moisture and nutrients back and forth from root to leaves. Too much damage under the bark will hinder survival.

Summer storm season in Tallahassee is also hurricane season. Many homeowners are proactive by performing preventative maintenance themselves or contracting a licensed and insured tree service company. No plan is failsafe when it comes to Mother Nature, but healthy trees tend to resist summer storm damage better. Remember, when a storm does occur, always make safety your top priority.

At Miller’s Tree Service, we have been through years of storm recovery in the Big Bend area. We have also sent crews outside of our usual service area to help other communicates in need. Each year, we hope for a quiet summer storm and hurricane season – and are prepared when storms leave behind damage and debris. We have five certified arborists to help you assess the health of your trees or plan for new ones. Call us for the emergency of a downed tree or schedule pruning and fertilization anytime at 850.894.TREE (8733).

For more information on preparing your trees for hurricane season, see our 5 point tree plan here.

A 5 Point Tallahassee Tree Plan for Hurricane Season

Though we are inland and avoid the potential of storm surge and salt damage here in Tallahassee, hurricane- and tropical depression-strength winds still pose a danger to our trees. Hurricane Hermine – a category 1 storm in 2016 – left approximately 80% of Tallahassee without power for days. Consider a tree plan that includes planning, selection, maintenance, recovery and removal to make hurricane season easier to manage year-round.

1. Planning

When it comes to landscaping, selecting the best location is key to the survival and health of plants and shrubs. When it comes to trees, planning the location can make the difference between a sturdy tree with a healthy root system or a tree that presents a risk in high winds.

  • If you need more shade on a part of your home, measure the total coverage you need and if you require year-round or summer coverage.
  • More interested in a stunning focal point? Determine the height you require and the maximum size desired.
  • If you are looking for a windbreak or visual barrier, measure the length of area you want covered, being sure to stay within your own property lines. Decide the width and height of the trees you want, noting any overhead utilities that require clearance.

Planning ahead with measurements will help in the selection stage of any new trees. Falling in love with an evergreen magnolia at the nursery presents a problem if you want only summer shade. This applies to both homeowners that have bought a house with bare land and those with a well-established landscape. At some point, one or more of your trees will approach its natural end of life cycle and it will be time to plan a replacement – or plan an overall landscape refresh!

2. Selection

In Tallahassee you have an abundance of choices when it comes to selecting trees for your yard.  In most cases the limitations come from available space, cold hardiness, sun/shade exposure and location if the spot is extremely wet or dry. For your tree plan, the overarching need is selecting species that hold up well to hurricane winds and rain.

When considering your options, be sure that trees with wide root bases have plenty of room to grow. Larger trees will have stunted roots if pavement or foundations are in the way, potentially leading to a lack of anchoring in high winds. Even palm trees with their relatively compact root systems need open surface around their trunks.

Grouping trees together can help in hurricane storm situations by the trees supporting each other rather than taking the high winds alone. Select different species that are compatible or a single variety of tree that does well planted together. A local county extension agent or certified arborist can help you select the best trees for your specific landscape needs, with hurricane resistance a top priority.

3. Maintenance

Think of maintenance as the crown jewel of your tree plan. This applies to brand new homeowners with young trees and the experienced homeowners who have seen what hurricane conditions can cause in the Big Bend. Even if your planning and selection are perfect, failure to properly care for your trees leads to potential problems.

Proper pruning usually involves removal of crossing branches and overcrowding within the branches. Overcrowding leads to lack of air circulation through the tree, making it more susceptible to damage from wind gusts.

Removal of dead branches is another critical maintenance item in your tree plan. Like securing outdoor furniture to minimize harm, high winds can turn dead tree debris into projectiles able to cause damage. When considering branch or dead limb removal, remember that even the best intentions can cause issues if improper pruning leads to disease or bug infestations in your carefully selected trees.  Your local arborist is your best choice in assessing what needs to be done to existing tress as well as a plan to keep your trees as healthy and well maintained as possible.

4. Recovery

Even with the best of care, hurricane conditions can cause trees to lean or fall, especially young ones. If the situation is caused by a truncated root system due to pavement or foundations, it’s usually best to start over with new planning and selection. However, if the tree is healthy with a strong root system and the tap root is intact, there may be a chance for recovery.

If you come home from evacuating or venture outside after a storm and find a favorite tree that is 10” diameter and under, with an exposed root system, follow these steps until the tree can be put back in place or is marked for removal. .

Tip: A tree with a diameter larger than 10” will likely be too big to stand back up, re-establish itself and have a good chance of survival.

If the tree is large enough to require mechanical assistance in moving upright, start with:

  1. Immediately: Look the tree over to assess damage. If the main trunk is intact and the root system is healthy (evenly spreading out from the trunk), cover the root area and exposed trunk with cloth or newspaper – NOT PLASTIC.
  2. Wet down the cloth and keep it moist. Keep the trunk covered to avoid sunscald.
  3. Call a licensed and insured tree service with certified arborists – leave a message if you do not get a person on the first try. Let them know the extent of tree damage and that you are trying to recover a downed tree.
  4. Remove broken branches but wait for a qualified tree specialist before removing intact branches. They may decide to thin the interior or do nothing further before righting the tree – it will depend on their assessment of location and tree health.
  5. Recovering a tree is not a guarantee that it will live through the trauma, but if it is a viable option and you are set on giving that particular tree a chance, be aware that the rest is up to Mother Nature.

If a tree is small enough that you can put it back in place easily by hand:

  1. Cover the root area and exposed trunk with cloth or newspaper until you have time to reset it in place. Keep the cloth or newspaper moist.
  2. When you are ready to put the tree back in place, have a level handy. Make sure the newly settled tree is vertical.
  3. Do not pile dirt around the tree. Most trees have a root system that includes the surface area – covering with dirt suffocates the surface roots and makes recovery difficult.
  4. Remove broken limbs back to the branch and broken branches back to the main trunk. Do not prune further.
  5. Keep the newly seated young tree watered and don’t worry if some leaves fall. Depending on the time of year, the tree may go dormant to focus energy on establishing roots.

5. Removal

There are times when a tree has experienced damage or is toward the end of its life and requires removal. If you have any trees that you worry may need removal it is best to take care of them sooner rather than later. Before hurricane season is a great time to call for an assessment of what needs trimming and what needs removing. Even if it’s the middle of summer it’s still better to get on a tree company’s consultation list than to put it off till the next big storm is on the way.

When considering different tree service companies for the maintenance and removal of trees:


  • Ask for a certified arborist who will give an assessment on the safety of your trees in hurricane conditions. Find out their name and confirm their ISA certification by searching org
  • Ask for proof of insurance – personal and property damage as well as workers compensation.
  • Ask for references and follow up by calling and discussing what the former customer had done, how long the job took and how the yard was left after the job was done. Did they stick to the bid?
  • Check out the company website and social media pages. It is unlikely for a reputable company not to have a website with contact information and a street address. Social media page(s) should have evidence of satisfied customers and relevant content, including pictures of the services the tree service offers.


  • Individuals who go door-to-door at any time of the year. Reputable tree service companies usually take calls through their office so the right people and equipment can be scheduled for each client’s needs.
  • Going for the low bid – you may experience poor tree maintenance standards. Certified arborists and the crews that work for them stay with industry standards. Do not allow anyone to use spikes to climb a tree unless it is being removed. Nor should they begin trimming without a specific plan.
  • Starting the job without a written bid in place – be sure it includes removal of all debris unless you intend to take care of the leaves and limbs yourself.
  • Adding to the project once it is started unless a supervisor or manager is available to approve the change. The cutting crews are experts at what they do and usually have a schedule of jobs for each day that need to be completed.

An Ounce of Prevention

Being proactive with tree maintenance comes easier with a plan and checklist. We’ve gone over the five key points of a tree plan; planning, selection, maintenance, recovery and removal. A checklist is available below and on our Facebook page at

Trees contribute to property values and are an important part of wildlife habitat and air quality. Their good points go on and on, making them well worth some time and attention throughout the year. Tallahassee is an official Tree City USA after all!

We love all facets of tree care at Miller’s Tree Service, including helping our clients make the best choices for their landscape needs. Our certified arborists can answer your questions about everything from group plantings to the sturdiest native trees.

Call  850.894.TREE (8733) to schedule an arborist assessment. As a locally owned Tallahassee business, we are invested in keeping Tallahassee trees looking their best!




Planting Trees in Tallahassee for Arbor Day and Beyond

planting tree

Arbor Day is both a national and state holiday. Nationally, Abor Day falls on the last Friday of April – April 29 this year. The state holiday coincides with the optimum tree planting time – meaning the third Friday in January for Florida. With proper planning and follow-up care, every day can be a good day for planting trees in Tallahassee and growing roots in North Florida.

A Short History of Arbor Day

Known for his enthusiasm of trees, former newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton spread his message of valuing trees as secretary of the Nebraska Territory. In 1972 he proposed a holiday he called “Arbor Day” be established by the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture. According to, “The celebration date was set for April 10, 1872. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals for the largest number of properly planted trees on that day. It was estimated that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.”

Considering the Nebraska Territory was known for unending plains and dust, establishing the trees was a practical solution to providing windbreaks and helping to reduce soil erosion. Today, all 50 states celebrate Arbor Day as well as numerous countries around the world including Australia. Iceland and New Zealand.

Abor Day in Tallahassee

Late January in North Florida is considered an optimal time for tree planting due to cooler temperatures with slightly above-average rainfall. This combination means the trees are less likely to suffer from heat stress and drought, enabling root growth rather than leaf or flower production. Most Tallahassee Arbor Day celebrations are on or around the third Friday in January, so mark your calendar for 2023. Until then, it’s still a great idea to plant trees with the proper planning for location, soil prep and follow-up care.

Location, Location, Location

The repetitive words apply to both real estate and choosing the right spot for planting trees in Tallahassee. Just like not buying the first house you see, picking the right tree and location is better accomplished with information and planning. Do you need shade on part of your house or a low spot in the lawn that collects rainwater? Those are perfect scenarios for a tree planting solution.

I Need Shade on My House!

Determine which side of the house you are concerned with – south, east, or west? Eastern exposure gives you the morning sunlight, western exposure gives you the sunset. If you still want the heat of the sunset in fall and winter, but not in the summer, then consider a deciduous tree that drops its leaves in the fall. For a larger yard consider a maple or catalpa tree or for smaller yards crape myrtle and eastern redbuds can be your best solution.

If you want year-round shade, investigate the different evergreens that grow well in the Tallahassee area. For large yards consider southern magnolia and longleaf pines or for smaller yards yaupon holly and camellias. All of them need to be planted the proper distance from the house to allow for full-size tree diameter and height. The University of Florida has put together an easy-to-use guide for north Florida trees available by clicking here.

TIP: If you want flowering trees, native trees or a tree that will tolerate that low spot in your lawn, the guide mentioned above provides that information as well.

Tree Planting is Different

Once you have located the best spot for your new tree, dig the hole 1.5 to 2 times wider than the root ball. Going a little wider loosens the soil and allows for faster root growth, especially important in higher wind locations. To measure the depth of the hole, locate the topmost root to the bottom of the root ball.  Note that the topmost root will need to be above the soil level once planted.

Move the tree (always maneuver the tree using the pot, not the trunk) to the edge of the hole, removing inorganic material such as plastic from around the root ball. Examine the topmost roots, even if it requires brushing away a layer of dirt. If any of the top roots are kinked or circling the trunk or container, cut them off at the base of the trunk. Otherwise, these roots run the risk of “girdling,” wrapping around the growing trunk and eventually killing the tree. Use the remaining top roots as your guide for the depth of planting.

After the tree is in the hole, make sure the trunk is standing as upright as possible. Use a level if needed. Backfill with previous dirt and any soil left from the nursery pot and from the soil. When the hole is half full of soil, water the area to remove air and hydrate the roots. Finish filling the hole to ground level with the top roots exposed, allowing them to breathe. Double-check the tree is not leaning. Finish watering the area thoroughly.

Your final act of planting is mulching with plant-based materials. Use enough mulch for a 2- to 3-inch coverage around the tree, leaving the top of the root ball bare. The mulch keeps evaporation down, providing much-needed moisture to new roots growing out from the tree.

Water is Life for a Tree

  • Weeks 1- 2: Water the root ball daily.
  • Weeks 3-8: Water every other day.
  • Weeks 9-12: Water once a week
  • Water less often in winter or if you have poorly draining soils.

Regular watering assures your tree has the hydration it needs to keep roots, leaves and new growth going. Even in the colder months, water matters. During hibernation, trees focus on root growth to help support trunk growth and foliage in the coming spring and summer.

Feeding and Trimming Matter

For most trees, wait six months to apply a light feeding of slow-release fertilizer. Anything more and you run the risk of damaging new root growth. Lightly spread or broadcast the fertilizer under the drip line of the tree canopy, keeping away from the trunk. Once established, most trees are fine on their own, with the exception of citrus and palms. Talk to your local nursery or arborist for specifics.

Pruning does not occur the first year your tree is in your yard. In the following years, follow specific pruning instructions for the specific tree species. Common practices include cutting close to the trunk at an upward angle and avoiding the use of tree wound paints after trimming.

At Miller’s Tree service we think every day is tree day. Helping to plant and trim healthy trees is always a pleasure. As arborists, we also assess trees that are at the end of their life cycle or pose a danger to structures. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide full-service tree care and landscape services around the Big Bend.

As Arbor Day is a holiday for planting trees for the future, so are we and our families firmly rooted in the Tallahassee and area communities.