BB Norway spruce dropping needles 3mo later

bradarmiAugust 2, 2014

Hey All. One of my favorite forums, you guys (and gals) are the most informative and conifer obsessed people I know. Thanks for all the info over the years.

In April I planted a B&B Norway spruce from HD. It was "right off the truck" and had minimal torture in the parking lot of HD since I picked it up within an hour or two of being unloaded. (I verified with the stock guy). Anyway, it was about 4.5 feet tall and I thought it was container grown (I didn't realize it was B&B until I took it out of the container at home). It was planted in full sun before bud break and about 4 inches or so above soil level due to high clay content. No amendment except a handful of manure thrown in to the wheel barrow as I mixed the soil to backfill. The container was essentially sand so I pulled as much sand out without disturbing the root ball and added the leftover sand to the clay and manure mixture working it really well so I was mixed up and put everything back into the hole.

A few weeks ago bud break occurred ( seemed late to me) and now the new growth is droopy and loosing needles. I shook a few branches and the ground is littered with needles. Both new growth and old growth seem to be loosing needles. Any ideas? Do you think the tree is a total goner? I have planted lots of conifers this way on this property over the years and never saw anything so dramatic.

In other news, some of the conifers I thought were goners came back after this terrible winter. with much more needle not to worried, I just have this tree in a prominent spot.


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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Dig around in hole and see if there is a water problem (dry or wet areas). Otherwise tree was probably dug with inadequate (small) root system that can't keep the top hydrated.

Any textural modification of soil going into hole is amending of back-fill, as far as watering issue produced by this is concerned - the main reason not to make back-fill different from soil around hole is to prevent moisture problems within the back-fill.

Trees at big box stores here often look like they are b-grades (smaller or less branched specimens, the better ones having been sold elsewhere) or from batches that were gotten cheaply from growers that were clearing fields or going out of business

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 4:11PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hot spit... did you followed every post we ever wrote on how to do it right .. crikey ... beautiful ... but you couldnt help yourself with the 'nure eh ... lol ... but that isnt the issue ...

a the boy said... dig .. with a hand trowel.. 6 to 8 inche holes.. on the periphery of the ball you plnated... AND FIND OUT WHATS GOING ON DOWN THERE ...

its either too wet.. or too dry ...

adjust accordingly ...

but do let us know ...

my spring was 4 to 6 weeks late this year.. just south of ann arbor... EVERYTHING was late ... so your story doesnt surprise me ... but that story eneded.. for spruce.. about the first week or two of june .... mid to late july is way off ...

the boy is probably right.. but you wont know about the root slaughter, if any .. until it dies and you bare root it and find out ...

finally.. it is not uncommon ... for them to show the result of the digging.. shipping and planting stresses.. when the real heat of the midwest hits in late july/august ...

double finally ... there is a phase. just after bud break.. when the growth is so huge.. so fast.. that the plant appears droopy ... and it takes a few weeks for the plant to pump it up ...

triple finally.. give us a pic ... you are making us guess... at best ...


ps: we could do you a lot better than a bigboxstore green plain old spruce.. if you asked ... mail order for fall.. will solve all your problems ... lol

    Bookmark   August 2, 2014 at 5:00PM
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Thanks for the replies. I couldn't help myself with the manure, I had it and thought a "pinch for good luck". Anyway, I'll try to take a photo soon and post - need to resurrect my photobucket account. The new growth is very papery and dry, the old growth is yellowish/green but not every needle falls when the branch is shaken. We will see. As far as "same old spruce" no one in our area has one, everyone has blue Colorado blue spruces (including me). I also have quite a few cultivars of dwarf and variegated conifers, but I am tired of waiting for them to be something as the garden looks so disjointed with these small conifers.

This Norway is right in the front of the property facing the oncoming road and will give us some privacy, but not obstruct the house because of the way its positioned. Hopefully, it can recover. Also btw, I removed the sod around the tree with a 3 foot radius and added mulch several inches thick and away from trunk.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2014 at 2:17PM
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"its either too wet.. or too dry "...

Or one other possibility.

A bad dig and not enough remaining root mass to support above ground foliage.

Who knows how long it sat in root ball form with inadequate care before up potted?

I have seen this scenario many times. Every time it was really dead before you planted it.

"double finally ... there is a phase. just after bud break.. when the growth is so huge.. so fast.. that the plant appears droopy ... and it takes a few weeks for the plant to pump it up" ...

True but you never see needle cast as yours is doing.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 9:13AM
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So I looked at it closely today and the old needles from the last 2-3 years seem ok for the most part. The new growth is dead and dying and feels like paper. If you shake the stem the needles are falling primarily from the new growth.

I stuck a finger down to the knuckle and the area around the root ball felt moist and damp. When I was out and about it dawned on me perhaps the thing is too moist as the sprinkler system hits it EVERY morning from 5:30-5:45. (Not my sprinkler, the HOA, this is adjacent to common area). So I will lay off supplemental irrigation and see how it does.

I am thinking it can my Sitka spruce came back almost 100% from this past winter. It was a ball of brown needles, and now its amazing. The same with all the Hannoki false cypress (5 from Sid's going out of business sale). The same with the weeping Norway spruce, it looked terrible, now its making s much growth I have to re-stake it as its leaning and am tired of all sexual jokes from passerby. (After this winter, I have new respect for conifers).

    Bookmark   August 4, 2014 at 4:19PM
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