Problem with Colorado blue spruce

Misha_(Toronto, Canada)August 31, 2005

I planted 15 spruces this spring and 2 of them seem to have a problem - top and the top branches are drying up and turning brown. The needles on these trees seem softer than on others. Any ideas/suggestions?



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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

how big when you planted...

when did you plant ...

what did you do when you planted them... amendments, ferts, hole, soil type, etc ...

how much water did you provide during the summer ... and did you get the summer drought i got???

a lose of 2 of 15 is not that bad ... if you had the big drought of summer 2005 ....


    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 5:18PM
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Misha_(Toronto, Canada)

They were 6-7ft each, planted in mid-May, the wholes were approx 2ft deeper/wider than the burlap ball, filled the gaps with triple mix mixed with original soil (a bit clayish). The summer was quite dry but I watered them once a week (15min a tree).

I hope they are not lost yet - as I said the problem is with the tips and 2-3 top branches (well... the needles seem to be softer than on other trees). Is there are anything I can do now to prevent them from dying...?


    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 11:01AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

keep watering...

does the water move out of the native soil??? .... i mean they arent standing in water ... we can rule out over-watering ... if so, then

perhaps ... once a week wasnt enough ...

i would keep watering as late as possible ... but not letting them go into groundfreeze in an ice cube ...

no fert, no nothing... just water ...

trees are resilient ... if it can survive.. it will regenerate a new leader .... and you might have to trim off duplicates ... but that is in a year or 2 or three ... trees are never in a hurry ...

its been a horrible summer ... i presume yours hasnt been any better ... friends in Harrow Ont are in major depression .. and you arent that much further ... eh ...

i am surprised no one has brought up bug issues.. which i am not expert in ...

good luck ... ken

    Bookmark   September 1, 2005 at 5:32PM
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happyhoe(z6 OH)

The holes were dug 2 ft deeper than the root balls?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2005 at 2:26PM
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Misha_(Toronto, Canada)

Thanks Ken.

Ooops, my bad - the hole diameter was burlap diameter + 1.5-2 ft. The depth is 1 ft under the ball.

Is it a good idea to put more top soul (or triple mix) around the burlap top?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 11:25AM
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Mishi: Did you remove the burlap or is it exposed above the soil?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 1:34PM
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Misha_(Toronto, Canada)

I didn't remove the burlap (was told by the nursary not to). It is level with the ground - in most places it's sligtly covered by the soil in some exposed.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2005 at 6:39PM
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Mishi: I would read this link. I think that if the trees were mine I would remove as much of the burlap as I could get at. The burlap isn't actually good for the tree- the thought is that the burlap underground will rot away by the time the roots grow to the edge of the hole and it won't be a nuisance. I would cut it away from the top so that you can at least apply mulch and monitor the moisture level of the rootball better.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to plant balled and burlapped trees

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 9:35AM
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Misha_(Toronto, Canada)

Thanks Nettiesgarden. I will remove the top of burlap. Should I after that apply mulch, top soil, or just do nothing and wait?


    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 2:52PM
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Assuming that the root flare is at surface level I would apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch from the dripline inward, tapering to nothing near the trunk.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 3:44PM
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If you remove the burlap you might discover that a large tap root had to be cut.

Yet 2 out of 15 is not bad.

Nurserymen do sell unworthy plants all the time.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2005 at 4:25PM
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gotsprint(z6 OH)

My parents have 4 nice blue spruces, but one of them is loosing needles on the bottem of the branch only the top are still there and it is starting from the bottom of the tree and moving upward. they want to cut the tree down because they think it is contagious disease and they are afraid of loose the other 3 trees.. what should we do? thanks ricky

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 11:22AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

got sprint

how old are they??

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 11:36AM
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gotsprint(z6 OH)

they are 15 ft tall about 18 years old i also found 3 grasshoppers eating the needles as well as a bunch of cocoons from catipillars hanging from the branches i tseems they eat half the needle turning it brown then they take them and make the cocoon out of them, could this be what is doing it?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2005 at 3:19PM
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Aaron_Church(z7 NC)

I planted one on a hill. I planted in April. It has been doning fine until the last 3 weeks. Its turning brown and copper. It was and is 3 feet tall. Will it die?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 4:58PM
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gotsprint - Do a google search for bagworms.

Misha - It it were me...I'd dig them all up and remove all the burlap and if there is any wire cage, I'd get that off too.

Also, When you plant most anything with at least one exception I can think of which is rhododendrons and azaleas, you shouldn't dig the hole deeper than the rootball, only wider. The wider the better. The more of your natural soil, the better too. If you have serious clay then dig even wider yet and amend it so it can at least drain. Also with clay, it may be necessary to break through the hard pan so water can't build up.

I didn't read the link about "proper planting", but these are the tips I'm giving.

Aaron Church - Sounds like bad news. Prepare for the worst my friend. (Hills + newly planted "plants" can be a dangerous recipe as they can dry out very quickly or not even get the needed amount of water to begin with).


    Bookmark   October 15, 2005 at 10:29PM
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I have a blue spruce that is about 18 years old and approximately 20 feet tall. Early October I had an arborist come to take a look at our trees to ensure that they were healthy. The arborist inspected the blue spruce and all looked well. About 3 weeks later I looked at the blue spruce and it is entirely brown except for the blue tips. I called in a new arborist and was told that "it was most likely dead" and was given a quote to cut it down. I absolutely love this tree and will not be taking it down until I am absolutely sure it is dead. Would anyone have any ideas what is wrong with my blue spruce or any tree saving ideas?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 12:47PM
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Markrjc(z3 ONT)

Kim, that's odd that just after being given a clean bill of health your tree would just up and die! If that much of the tree is indeed looking brown, I'm sure the thing is on it's way out! Sorry!


    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 6:30PM
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The tree in question is a 10-12ft colorado blue spruce. Several years ago I place a large lighted star on the top for Christmas. It burned the top and it has never come back. I would like to trim the tree so it once again looks like a tree and not a round ball with a brown top. What is the proper time of year to trim?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2006 at 11:34AM
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patrick_nh(z4/5 NH)

Kim and gotsprint, you're not alone.

Here is a link that might be useful: Blue spruce pests or disease

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 12:30PM
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I have a small one (2 feet tall) in a 15 inch square planting box on my deck.

The needles turn brown in Winter. The needles are not brittle or dry. Now, new blue growth is starting at the tips of the branches. I expect the color to return to the whole tree. Isn't this normal? Maybe I'm wrong? Guess I'll see as Spring comes on.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2006 at 12:45PM
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lesliew(z7 NY)

I just noticed that the bottom branches on my seven foot high Colorado Spruce are nude! This has occurred from the ground up about eighteen inches. They wre planted about two years ago, and were fine till now. They have received ample water, and have been fed. What can I do about this? This is a front tree in the front border of the house and it looks awful. Is there any way I can save this and make it look decent, or am I going to have to pull it out?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 2:29PM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

Two red flag statements that you made when planting these conifers in the ground.

"I didn't remove burlap(was told by the nursery not to)".

"The hole diameter was burlap diameter + 1.5-2 ft. The dept is 1 ft. under ball".

Always remove all burlap and wire basket if it is present. This stuff will never disappear under ground because the oxygen levels are to low to decompose it. All this garbage will restrict root growth and shorten tree life. Cut the bottom of the burlap and basket out and set in hole. As soon as it is level and correct height remove remaining burlap and basket if present by cutting or sliceing down the side of the root ball. Don't worry if some dirt flakes off ball as there were no roots present to hold firm.

Never dig hole deeper then root ball. Always crown ball 2-3 inches. Conifer will settle over time with backfilled dirt in bottom of hole. It needs undisturbed compaction to keep ball at right height.

One final thing don't amend the soil. It has little or no value as roots quickly spread beyond hole to existing soils natural composition.

Sometimes I wonder how some of these nursery's stay in business with all the misinformation they put out.

Chances are if they had a main tap root cut survival rate is slim. In most cases I have discovered there is not enough supporting root system to compensate the loss of the main feeder root. It's fate was already sealed befor you purchased it.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 3:49PM
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I have transplanted about 25 Spruce and Pine; around my property, without wrapping with burlap. Just used heavy twine to hold the ball together. They all survived.Most of them are about 7 to 10 feet tall now.
The only problem I've had was with the Redheaded Pine Sawfly and the Pine Spittlebug. You can see the info on them in the Conifer Forum under my Chir Pine , if you scroll down. Or go on Google and put in the names. You will get tons of info. Don't take this lightly. It wouldn't
hurt to read up on them.I lost some 10 -12 year old trees.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 10:51PM
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I have to disagree on the burlap issue...

I had 30 Colorado Blue Spruces planted in the fall of 2005,
each at least 6' or taller. Not a single tree had burlap or wire mesh removed. Beautiful trees, no problems besides:

1) Spider mites - spraid all infested tress, new growth is doing great. No chance for recovery for all the the dead needles.

2) Bag worms - to destroy them, I threw them in bucket of water. unless you kill them, these warms will find another tree to climb.

3) Some kind of moths that cause some of the branches to turn purplish brown, and you see sap on the main trunk. Had to insert plugs in the winter to control the insect.
Will spray the trees in March to destroy them.

From my experience, see local nursery for advice.
Also, if no sure about watering, dig a hold foot deep aroung the ball. If muddy, odds are you created a well and the tree is drowning.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2007 at 2:07PM
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OK I have two Spruce trees in Denver Colorado, planted last summer, end of summer. Some bottom part tips are turning brown. Brown parts are kinda random, but the front of the tree is looking silvery, white, like the whole front section is going to die. (Not Sure)

How often do these trees need watering? If some of the sections turn brown, what should I do, trim them off leaving spots, leave it brown? Will the sections that dies grow back?

Eeeee - help.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 10:58AM
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Good question! I am having the same problem with a few of mine as well. So I will join you and anxiously await some good answers from the great group of knowledgeable folks here! :)

    Bookmark   April 30, 2007 at 12:03PM
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I have huge old blue spruces that suddenly started turning brown last year. My tree guy said I had spruce mites. If I held a piece of paper under a branch and shook the branch, little round red mites fell out. They die in the cold. They won't kill the tree, but I had the trees sprayed this spring with an oil base coating they don't touch. I get another spraying in late summer. So far so good. the brown needles have fallen off, and the trees look good.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 2:05AM
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my blue spruce stays green and doesnt seem to be dying but the new blue/silver growth is only about 3 inches each summer and slightly more on the top leader. tree is about 5 years old, 8 ft tall. have tried fert/water and cant find any insects.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 10:53AM
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I have a blue spruce (6ft tall) that started out this spring not growing much because of the hot, dry weather. Started watering it on a regular basis and new growth has been abundant. However, some branches don't seem to have recovered at all and have dropped all their needles. And strangley after several weeks of no new branches dropping their needles I just had one branch go from green to red needles overnight. Anyone know what casues the needles to turn red? Again I have been giving it plenty of water. Nursery says it's ok. Will the branches that have dropped their needles recover?

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 8:06PM
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I have a colorado spruce (about 8 ft tall). it was planted about 3 years ago. this spring the tree did very well, lots of growth and blue color. in mid july i noticed some branches with red pine needles. it has become a bit more since then but is not rampant. the red needles appear in the upper half of the tree but not at the top - which has nice growth and blue color. the red needles are not falling off and are quite hardy - very difficult to pull off of the branch. the tree gets a lot of sun.

we had a very wet June in NY and the tree got a lot of water - too much I'd say. the ground is mostly clay and the tree is planted in a section of the yard that is a bit lower lying than the rest and with a lot of rain comes some flooding there which usually takes a few days to drain.

can you give us some ideas on what may be causing the red needles? too much water? will the tree recover?

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 6:07PM
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hi all.

i have a 20yrs old colorado spruce and started to secrete very clear sticky material from the bark.

what is this and if its a sickness/disease, how do i cure it?


    Bookmark   December 24, 2010 at 9:29AM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Shaher, that just sound slike normal resin leaking out to me. Possibly some localised damaga was done to an area of the trunk and it is leaking resin to heal itself.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2010 at 10:38AM
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I have random branches turning brown some on top and some on bottom. Its a colorado blue spruce i planted last summer, its about 10 ft. tall. what could this be?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 5:57PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

You'll probably needs pics and more info regarding the enviorment to address the issue.

Not sure what is worst, planting a 8-10' blue spruce or highjacking an old thread, lol.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 9:57PM
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hello all, new to the site and have planted 5 blue spruce and 5 serbian spruce in november of 2011 they were 4ft tall had burlap on them. when i planted them i took burlap from around the top but left them around the sides. the top of the ball is 1-2in above ground. they are in full sun and clay soil that has the pH of 6.2 phosphorus of 17ppm and potassium of 134ppm i put mulch around them after i planted them to help them retain moisture. i sprayed them with wilt-pruf after i planted them to help retain moisture and with it being windy in the area they are in. they had new growth this spring and i was reluctant to water in the early summer cause i did not want to over due watering . i started to see some of the lower branches start to go brown and die so i started to water from my pond for about 10-15 minutes per tree about every 2-4 days. we are in a pretty good drought. i need HELP !!! are the ones that have dying branches too far gone to save? am i watering too much or too little? do they need fertilizer? any and all help would be GREATLY APPRECIATED.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:11PM
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I am hoping someone can tell me what is wrong with my blue spruce. It wintered well in the original pot, and had new growth last spring in the pot. When I planted it last summer, it started to show brown at the bottom.

Someone said to remove the earth around the top of the root ball so it can get some air. Also I started using a soaker hose for watering 3 times a week for 10 minutes each time. It is also in full sun.

What should I be feeding it? Will it recover?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 3:56PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

a seven year old post.. why didnt you start your own ...


if those lower branches do not bud out.. then cut them off ...

if you dont like the bare spot down low... get another smaller conifer.. and plant it in front of it.. rather sooner than a year and a half after you buy it ...

whoever told you to scrape the dirt off the top mystifies me ...

i have no clue if your watering regimen delivers water thru the root mass you planted.. dig a hole and find out if there is moisture 6 inches down ... and change your watering accordingly ...


    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 5:01PM
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I have never posted, but thanks for the answer.

I bought the tree in December 2011 and covered the pot with bags I had of mulch. When summer arrived, I had to go away for a month so it never got planted until July. My husband added 2 gallons of water everyday until I came home to plant it. I don't like anyone in my flower beds, but me.

I will look for another small tree to plant in front of it. I did plant the ball last year with some Myke. I hope that helped it.

My ground is very damp. I put my hands down there last week when it was very warm here in Ottawa.

The nursery who sold me the tree, said to leave at least 2-3 inches of the crown out of the ground. Otherwise I cannot get air to the roots.

I am new at this, so I am looking for some experienced people who can help me.

Thanks for the info.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 5:14PM
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I agree with replacement. Recovery seems iffy, and blue spruce can take a long time (several years) to fill back in once they've sustained significant die back.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 11:36PM
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I have 2 older spruce trees, not CBS, shedding their branch tips. Trees look ok, lots of pine cones and the branch tips shedding are very green

    Bookmark   December 7, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I have 2 older spruce trees, not CBS, shedding their branch tips. Trees look ok, lots of pine cones and the branch tips shedding are very green

    Bookmark   December 7, 2014 at 1:30PM
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