- Plant Health Care (PHC) is a
refreshing and dramatic new concept in professional landscape care. It is a
holistic customer-driven approach to plant care that focuses on the health,
growth, and beauty of plants and provides a wealth of information to
facilitate informed decision-making.
- Woody landscape plantings are a joy to behold. They provide a multitude of
personal and social benefits and are significant assets that add to property
values. Unfortunately, more than ever before, trees and shrubs are subjected
to a host of environmental stresses such as disturbed and poor soil, drought,
bad planting techniques, soil compaction, air pollution and much more. These
stresses tend to weaken their natural defensive systems and leave them subject
to diseases and insect infestations. If left undetected and untreated, these
problems can seriously damage and even destroy the plants.
Until recently, tree care professionals (arborists) and other landscape
care providers were called in only after problems had reached an advanced
stage and became noticeable. Drastic reactionary measures were then
necessary to save plants and, all too often, even the most radical
PHC Offers a Change for the
- Plant Health Care begins with the premise that if you tend a plant
properly-- if you can prevent a plant from undergoing stress by giving it the
proper location, sunlight, soil, moisture, and protection from pests -- the
plant will thrive. With PHC, arborists and other landscape professionals
establish ideal growing conditions for the plants they tend. They remove the
stresses which drain a plant's energy, then bolster its natural defenses by
determining and meeting essential requirements. By modifying the basic
elements of plant growth, the PHC specialist can turn weak plants into healthy
and vigorous specimens.
Plant and Human Health: An
- PHC, in many respects, parallels advances in human health care. Not long
ago, people were willing to take some medicine whenever they became ill. Today
however, there is a tendency to practice prevention and accept drugs only as a
last resort. People are aware that there are many components to health
maintenance, including regular check-ups, proper diet, exercise, supplemental
vitamins, and avoidance of stress. Prevention now occupies the front seat --
far ahead of treatment, therapy, or medicine.
Plant Health Care also stresses preventive maintenance with chemical
interventions as a last resort. Both PHC and human health maintenance use
holistic approaches to establish and sustain health and vigor. Simple
principles are the foundations of both:
- Preventive care,
- frequent monitoring (check-ups),
- early detection of problems,
- informed decision-making,
- and integrated treatments to provide long-term, stable solutions.
In addition, just as people expect caring, responsive professionals
for personal health, they can now find the same level of service and
personalized attention for their landscape plants.
- The Plant Health Care Management System is a multi-faceted method
of landscape care that was unveiled in 1992. It was developed by a team of
plant care experts after a study of America's urban forests disclosed some
rather alarming findings and the need for many changes: changes in attitudes
and thinking on the part of landscape care providers; changes from a focus on
(reactive) pest control to emphasis on proactive plant health; changes
favoring environmentally conservative methodology; and increasing the
availability of vast information resources to plant care providers, to name a
few. After several years of development, Plant Health Care has accomplished
all these initial objectives and more.
Let's look at some of the features and advantages you can expect from a
- Personalized service starts on your landscape by the PHC practitioner
asking questions, exploring priorities and expectations. You can be assured
that a firm which practices PHC will have a staff of well-trained, educated,
and experienced professionals who are familiar with your landscape plants,
their needs for optimum health, and the pests and diseases most likely to
- PHC recognizes that every property is different and that every plant
offers its own unique challenges and opportunities. By exploring the landscape
with you and understanding your desires, the PHC specialist develops an
individualized care program that meets your specific needs. PHC allows for
one, some, or all plants to be monitored. Certain information will surface
concerning "key plants" which are of significant monetary or sentimental
value. The client's desires and expectations drive the PHC concept.
- Frequent monitoring ensures early detection of problems. Several times
during the growing season (usually every 3 to 6 weeks depending on the
practitioner and geographical area), a professional "scout" trained in the
diagnosis of horticultural diseases and deficiencies visits a client's
property for an inspection. When the inspection is completed, or soon after,
the client receives a scouting report which advises of any existing or
anticipated problems. Should either exist, the client is given complete
information about the problem and the urgency for treatment, and is advised of
all available treatment options.
- Plant Health Care bridges communication between the plant care
professional and client. PHC practitioners consult with the client before and
after treatments, providing clear and relevant information that enables the
client to be an active partner in landscape decisions. Their expertise is
available to assist clients in choosing the right plant for the right place.
The cornerstone of the Plant Health Care concept is the understanding that
intelligent decision-making is both the key to a healthy and beautiful
landscape as well as the client's peace of mind.
- Alternative treatment options are usually available. Typically, the best
choices are those that work in concert with natural processes and are the
least intrusive. PHC offers a vast arsenal of treatment options. They include
pruning for health maintenance, eradication, or aesthetics, cultural practices
such as soil aeration or mulching, fertilization, thinning if overcrowding of
plants is a problem, and cabling and bracing. Chemical applications are used
only as a last resort, but remain a viable PHC option --- especially during
early stages of a PHC program while optimum plant health is being achieved.
Beautiful landscapes are by-products of the stimulation
of health and vigor of plants. Only healthy plants can be beautiful plants
and with PHC, the client is assured of both.
- For some, environmental sensitivity is PHC's most significant attribute.
PHC focuses on maintaining healthy plants, which stimulates their natural
defensive systems. This, in itself, serves to suppress pests. If, however,
pests become a problem, PHC specialists utilize a wide variety of
environmentally sensitive treatment strategies to maintain a more natural
balance. Whether it be the use of insect traps, tree injections, horticultural
oil treatments, pruning or small-scale spot spraying, Plant Health Care
employs measures that are effective and also meet or exceed government
standards. Routine blanket chemical sprays for eradication of insects will
soon be a practice of the past. Research now tells us that not all insects are
harmful and, in fact, some are actually beneficial. PHC also recognizes that
small amounts of pest damage can often be tolerated without long-term harm to
the plant, depending on the circumstances.
- Because Plant Health Care maintains the vigor of the landscape, plants are
much less susceptible to pests. Proactive PHC practices cost considerably less
than reactive interventions. In the past, money was spent to purchase costly
treatments, usually broadcast sprays, to combat pests that plagued weakened
plants. Since the underlying imbalances that induced the problems were rarely
corrected, it was an endless cycle of treatments with minimal gains.
Professional plant maintenance can actually pay for itself when considering
how much healthy, beautiful plants add to property values.
Locating a PHC
- As stated earlier, the Plant Health Care Management System is a
relatively new concept receiving wide acceptance within the landscape
industry. Look to the yellow pages under tree care to see if any local
arborists are advertising Plant Health Care. If not, call tree care
providers and ask questions, using the information presented in this brochure.
County extension and state conservation offices may possibly offer useful
This brochure is one in a series published by the
International Society of Arboriculture as part of its Consumer Information
Program. You may have additional interest in the following titles currently in
the series: Insect and
Disease Problems; Mature Tree
Care; New Tree
Planting; Trees and
Turf; Benefits of
Selection; Plant Health
Care; Avoiding Tree
and Utility Conflicts; Recognizing
Tree Hazards; Why Hire an
High-Quality Trees; Tree
Values; Pruning Young
Mature Trees; Why Topping
Hurts Trees; Pruning Young
Mature Trees; Avoiding
Tree Damage During Construction; Treatment of
Trees Damaged by Construction.
Developed by the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), a non-profit
organization supporting tree care research around the world and dedicated to
the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees. For further
information, contact: ISA, P.O. Box 3129, Champaign, IL 61826-3129, USA.
© 1995 International Society
UPDATED FEBRUARY 2000
- The Plant Health Care Management System was developed to meet the
environmental requirements of the urban landscape. The International Society
of Arboriculture Research Trust, National Arborist Foundation and the USDA
Forest Service funded development of the PHC program by a project team of
researchers, educators and practitioners from the University of Illinois (USA)
Natural History Survey.