Homer wins a MyPad at the school auction and Steve Mobbs, who is now in heaven, talks to Homer through it. Homer goes into a funk when he breaks the myPad, until Flanders discovers a miracle tree in the Simpsons' back garden. Everyone thought that a sign of hope will be at Evergreen Terrace but only one person, Kent Brockman, does not believe it. He investigates the sign of hope and saw that a person wrote the word hope with maple syrup.
Homer is heavily depressed over his life, and Lisa decides to cheer him up by purchasing a raffle ticket at fundraiser at Springfield Elementary School. Homer wins a MyPad and soon becomes obsessed with it until he falls and breaks it. Feeling even more depressed, Homer feels hopeless until Flanders makes a discovery, finding the word "Hope" written on the Simpsons' backyard tree in sap. Everyone, especially Homer, sees it as a miracle. However, reporter Kent Brockman, determined to expose the truth and shatter everyone's hopes, finds a thermal video that shows someone wandering onto the Simpsons' backyard and writing "Hope" onto the tree with maple syrup. Homer is distraught once again until Marge reassures him that since someone wrote the word on the tree, it meant that someone was watching and that the message was for him when he really needed it. Homer agrees and goes back into the house with her. The following night, someone approaches the backyard tree and continues writing "Hope" onto the tree. It is revealed to be a sleepwalking Homer. The episode ends with a vignette inspired by the French animated short film Logorama.
Robert David Sullivan from The A.V. Club gave the episode a B-, saying "'A Tree Grows In Springfield' turns out to be a throwback to early Simpsons in a season that’s been heavy on mean-spirited humor."
Stephanie Gillis received an Annie nomination for Writing in a Television Production.