Hemlock in Distress! Please help!

fizorzedApril 3, 2008

Hi all. We planted a mature Hemlock (approx 7 feet tall) late summer last year. It was very full and green. However I have noticed a remarkable decline in it's appearance over the fall and winter months. It stated as some browning and dropped needles in spots but currently has spread to most of the tree. I would say that a good 1/3 of the needles are browning and falling off. An arborist was out to inspect it a month ago and saw no signs of bugs and insisted that these trees will shed needles and that it looked fine but it seems to have gotten worse not better.

We have had a lot of snow and runoff in our backyard so the ground has been very wet for a long time. I'm not sure how much water these trees can take at a time. What are the symptoms of drowning?

I know this is a general post at this point but I am looking for general advice at this point. I can give a more detailed response to questions and even post pictures if that helps. What should I be looking for that is normal behavior and what should I be worried about?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

interior needles shed normally.. much more after transplant.. and depending on how well tended thereafter ...

IT IS NORMAL .. ignore it ... keep it properly watered all this year and next

shedding of the buds .. means dead branches ... and perhaps the whole tree ...

can you post a picture ... or at least go study the plant and define whether it is interior or the growth points ...

all that said... presuming you are zone 5 or 6 ... i would give it at least another 4 to 6 weeks before i really started to worry .. or make decisions about life or death ...


    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 3:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Fledgeling_(4b SD)

Evergreens... do NOT keep their needles forever. The old ones must go sometime, often all at once. Post a picture- are the most recent needles from the last year or so falling also?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 3:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A way to check would be to snip a portion of a branch that you think might be dead and see if there is any green from where the cut was made. If green, then still life!!!!!. If brown and brittle, no life!!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 4:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

three px below .... as examples of what is normal and what isnt ... not hemlock.. but the concept applies ...

scratching limb.. or cutting branches.. done once helps to determine some green cambian layer .. but dont go out there clipping and scratching willy nilly .... patience ...

browning can also be increased from a really bad winter... and often happens in fall ....


2 normal.. third pic dead


    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 4:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Fiz, the advice from Ken and Fledgling is right on, as usual. Just to hone in on the soil moisture aspect a bit more............proper water management at this point would consist of NOT watering. I'd bet you know that already, but just in case......

If you're in Northern Illinois, you've had copious moisture-snow and rain-all Winter, and even into last Summer as well. So the plant shouldn't be moisture stressed. The main thing you can check right now is the condition of the buds. If they appear green and healthy, the tree should come through just fine. IF the weather takes a turn toward drought, which seems unlikely at this point, then you should give the entire rooting area one good soaking per week.

Winters like the one you just had are often referred to as bad ones by people who don't like Winter. But for something like a hemlock tree, I'd definitely not say the Winter you (And I) just went through was a bad one. Actually, near ideal.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 8:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Without a picture I'm just guessing, but too much water (your ample precip the last few months) can look the same as not enough water (newly planted 7 footer with unestablished roots?). Where did it come from and what did the roots poking out of the rootball look like when it was planted late last summer (late October would have been better)? Although all conifers shed, my hemlocks have less, not more brown needles now than they did in late November-early December as most of those old needles have already dropped.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 10:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Its my understanding that Hemlocks don't like "wet feet". So I find it difficult to know how much to water these things. On my property I have some planted in heavy clay and some in beautiful loam. Each must be watered differently but I find it difficult to guage when to water and how much to water.
One of my recently planted hemlocks (10-12ft) looked to be in distress as its "mid-riff" was losing needles. On inspection it turned out that the bozos planting it had broken many of the branches in the center section - where it had been tied up and probably bounced on the side of a truck. Many of the Y shaped branches had been split at the join and both branches of the Y were dieing and losing needles. So I am going to have a tree with a bare midfriff - something I love to see on girls but not trees.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 11:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

Hi Ken,

I would think Thuja p.'Morgan' would be tough to grow in Michigan. They are susceptible to damage with sharp temperature changes in early Spring. A hard freeze will quickly put an end to them.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 8:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey dave.. i hate to admit it.. but i couldnt find my picture of the dead plant.. and that pic was the closest to the look ...

that morgan is just happy as heck .. and that is its normal winter color .. go figure ... lol ...

that said ... it will die this year... lol ...


    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 9:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

Good one Ken. I got a laugh out of that. A good way to start the day.

I had 4 Morgans all growing at one time. Lost 2 when transplanting. They do not dig well. Probably my fault. The other 1 to April 9/07 hard freeze. The last remaining one seems impervious to anything and is doing well.

Hope yours continues to do well.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 10:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I planted 3 large hemlocks Dec05. 2 of them died, starting at top, then brown creeping down and needles fell off, then all at once all fell off, took about 2 weeks in process. It was probably overwater in this swamp. I had researched trees that love water and read the hemlock likes standing water but in real life in my yard this was not the case. Also read they like some shade in the summer. The one I have left that survived is doing really well but I'm always afraid it will suddenly croak. It's in too-sunny a place but the neighbors put up a 6' cedar fence alongside it so hopefully that will give it enough shade for a good start. It's quite a bit over the fence in height now.

Its roots may have more air than the others because a mole Spring06 dug tunnels all through that area. It's at the end of the yard with cottage stone perimeter, raised about 14", and on the other side there's always a lot of standing water so I think copious rainwater leaks out those mole tunnels into the neighbor's yard.

One weird thing -- the hemlock has lost its droopy top and instead is ramrod straight.

Eventually the trees around it will grow taller and shade it more. We've let rootstock salix smithianas sucker and grow like mad to provide shade in the yard in summer until the other trees get old enough to withstand the sun. The smithianas are really big now.

Hemlock is straight conifer to the right:

Bottom of same hemlock tree, on left:

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 1:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Regarding hemlocks and water: From all I know of the entire hemlock tribe, they are natives of areas receiving considerable precipitation. Here in Wisconsin, they are found most commonly in mixed, upland hardwood stands. Here, their most common associates are sugar maple, beech, yellow birch, and white pine. None of these would be considered swampland trees. The overriding feature of such sites' soil is that it is constantly moist.......but well-drained.

Now, I have seen plenty of hemlock in swamps, but there, they are typically on small, raised hummocks of soil, not right in standing water. So yes, they do appreciate moisture. No doubt about that. But they are not very tolerant of wet feet. Capiche?


    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 5:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Tom, I learned what you're saying the hard way.
Tsuga heterophylla here.

There were several trees that in print were advised for water. Sitka spruce grows smack in the Columbia River! Whole groves of them. But when I planted them in my little creeklets they died. Very frustrating. No evergreens except swamp eucalypti survived the creeklets. Willows have done fine, as have river birch.

Really wish I could find a conifer for this zone that would grow in a creek.

Fizorzed, can you post pictures of your hemlock?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 6:28PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A 7 foot Hemlock can be a rather large transplant, isn't it? Maybe the roots were cut off alot when it dug up for sale? Which has let to major transplant shock?

Or maybe the soil is hard midwest clay and the hole has been full of water, poor drainage?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 9:28PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Your opinion - new white pine leader
This white pine was planted last April. The idiots...
A question for the grafters among you
Hi,with experience,I've realised the main hurdle to...
Araucaria seed search
Hi, Does anyone happen to know where I can find seeds...
Taxodium mucronatum photo
An uptight photo
Pinus Nigra hardiness
We had a brutal temp swing in November after a very...
treebarb Z5 Denver
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™