Help! Are my Arborvitae trees dying?

kbrutschMay 1, 2014

Help! We live in CO and planted a row of 6 arborvitae trees last Spring. They were doing well and staying green, and were watered by a drip line on a regular basis until the first frost. When winter hit, we were careful to tie the branches together and bang off heavy snow so that the branches wouldn't freeze and break off. Now Spring is upon us, and the branches are browning. Although the pictures might seem as though the branches are yellow, they are actually more brown in color. We are watering them with a good 10 minute soak every 4-5 days or so, so we don't think it is a water issue. Also, some of the branches are blackening at the tips - is this due to some kind of fungus? Any advice is appreciated - please help us revive our trees! Thanks!

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

how about a close up ...

are you watering when they need it... or by that schedule???

how do you know if the schedule is proper ...

how bad was winter???'

is the brown on the south side of the plants ...

did you amend the planting hole... what is your soil .. clay???

ball and burlap.. or pots?? .. bigboxstore???

were they severely root bound on planting.. what if anything did you do about it????

did you fertilize them??? .. in the hole????

is your lawn sprayed???? .. the damage looks too consistent across the front of the trees at grass level .???

is there landscape fabric under the stone???

so many questions.. so little time ...


    Bookmark   May 1, 2014 at 6:23PM
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I am having perhaps similar problem, Ken, and the answer is "no" to all of your posed questions. My tree is at least 20 years old and has had no previous problems. Also, did not have any kind of damage. Does not sit anywhere near road - has some protection from wind through the house and other plantings. The damage did not show up until end of April and an entire branch (vertical) suddenly started turning brown.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 10:17AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i dont think spring will ever come to my MI ... and i have some in the same circs ... and am waiting to see how they respond.. when it actually gets warm enough for growth ...

nina ... when the injury OCCURRED... as compared to when it SHOWED ... is always the mystery ... in all my years... i have a very hard time.. differentiating such ... the problem being..

for us in the great white north.. being that winter is a sort of suspended animation ... and we dont know if the insult was from severe drought last summer... a short very cold fall w/o proper hardening off ... a very harsh winter ... etc ...

but for sure.. it did not happen inside a few weeks in spring ... in my estimate anyway ... when the weather was moderating ... versus extreme ...

all we can do is wait ... give them time.. and react later ...


ps nina ... cut the brown branch out when you are sure .... it will fill back in [might take a year or two ] ... presuming there isnt something else going on ... but disease limited to one branch.. would be a bit wonky ...

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 12:00PM
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Hi Ken,

Thanks so much for helping me diagnose the problem with our arborvitae trees. Sorry for the delay in my response. I have attached a close-up picture.

We have been watering the trees about twice a week - a gallon or two of water each time. It seemed to be an average CO winter - it snowed on and off. The snow would not last more than a day or two with out melting off. It got below freezing overnight but it would warm up during the day - average days in the 40s and it would get down to 20 or below at night. It seems like the browning started early Spring. It's clay soil, and when we planted them, we dug a hole two times the size of the root ball and mixed fertilized gardening soil in with the clay soil. There is some browning on the side of the plants that face the fence (the south side), but not as much. We are unsure if they were root-bound upon planting - how can you tell? The lawn is not sprayed where the trees are growing. We did not use landscape fabric underneath the stone.

Do you think it's a watering issue? Based on our research, it seems they are either getting too much water (which seems unlikely), not enough water (which might be the case), or some kind of fungus/disease is causing the problem. More recently, we have been watering them more in the past week to see if that helps, yet we aren't seeing a change - or does it take several days for them to green up if that's the problem?

What do you advise we do?


    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 11:00AM
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Can anyone offer any advice about how to bring our arborvitae trees back to life?

I first posted about this issue 23 days ago and the trees still look the same.

They don't appear to be getting worse (which is good!), but we have had several rains since my first post and the trees do not appear to be greening up.

Is it possible they have a disease?

Thanks for any help anyone can offer!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 8:25AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Likely a combination of watering and a bad winter. It would be better to soak them with water and then not water again until the soil is dry 3-4 inches down. Plants that size would take 5-10 gallons of water and make sure it soaks the root ball. How long between waterings depends on your soil.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 3:01PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i am reading your frustration level... i dont know what you want us to tell you ...

of my 650 conifers ... at least 50 have winter damage .. some of them arbs like yours ...

a half dozen are outright dead ... though no arbs ...

and all i can do.. is wait and see if and how they recover ...

and counting days would only irritate me.. more than answer the question ...

though the black stuff is a disease... its nothing i ever treated ... and therefore.. i dont even recall what it is .....

these plants are extremely stressed ... and covering them in a chemical ... will not help ...

in terms of tree years... trees that can grow decades ... your 23 days is insignificant ...

if you cant stand to look at them ... get rid of them ...


ps: most of my dead ones.. have gone all brown ... so arent arent dead ...

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 5:13PM
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