Blue Spruce Problems in NE

sc77May 16, 2014

I typically hang out in the conifers forum, but figured I would post here to get local feedback. Since starting to collect conifers 4 years ago, I have been very successful with variety of different species, except...Blue spruce. Of the 4 different cultivars I have tried, I have lost 2 and the 2 remaining do not look great.

At first I was convinced I must not be providing enough sun for them, but my observations is that most of the blue spruce in NE look bad... with most of their lower branches sparse. Typically home owners just limb them up since there is no other choice. I think this looks awful.

I will be sending a sample of my Picea pungens 'The Blues' in for confirmation, but I believe every one of my Blue spruces and many in the area are being destroyed by rhizosphaera needle cast. Does anyone have any documentation that suggests this area is extremely prone to this disease? I am currently treating my 2 survivors with DACONIL antifungal, so we will see what happens, but I don't plan to plant anymore. I will use Abies concolor instead.

Just wondering what everyone else's experience is like with Blue Spruce in NE.. based on my observations they don't seem to like to live around here..

For reference.. Here is what happened to my first Blue Spruce... Picea pungens 'Glauca Globosa'

This post was edited by SC77 on Fri, May 16, 14 at 22:14

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I haven't noticed any particular problem with Blue Spruce in Massachusetts. I can't tell conifers apart very well, but I've noticed a number of spruce or firs with bluish tinges I thought were blue spruce, and the reason I noticed them was they were doing well in an area where pines are dying.

Now you have me worried...I just planted a bunch of blue spruce. Could those bluish spruce and firs I keep seeing be something else? What conifers have been doing well in your yard?

This post was edited by edlincoln on Fri, May 16, 14 at 23:59

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 11:41PM
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tree_oracle(z6b MA)

I think you're just having some bad luck with your spruces. I've seen hundreds if not thousands of examples of blue spruces around this state that are fully branched to the ground. I can't tell you how many times my golf ball has ended up under one one. I can assure you that I had no shot due to the low branching.

If the lowest branches get shaded out, they will start to decline and die. That's not unusual.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 7:02AM
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Thanks for the replies. I am also in MA. I collect conifers, so I have quite a few that are doing very well. I even have other varieties of Spruce that are doing exceptionally well. I have Oriental Spruce, Norway Spruce, Engelmann Spruce, Yew, Green Giants, Emerald Green Arbs, White Fir, Alaskan Cedar, Mugo Pine, White Pine, Lodgepole Pine.

My hemlocks are the only other ones that are doing poorly, and that is a well known issue Woolly Adelgid (HWA).

Yes, I am aware that the shade will cause the needles to drop and the branches to thin, but what I have been observing in Eastern MA is that the vast majority of Blue Spruces have completely dead lower half's. Sometimes I will see a really nice specimen, but they are almost always juvenile. I'll wait for confirmation, but I'm 90% sure it's Rhizosphaera needle cast. Maybe your right, maybe my Blue spruces are just passing it to one another.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 7:37AM
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How well do Englemen Spruce, White Fir and Alaskan Cedar do in Eastern Massachusetts? How are they against disease? Do you have much wind or salt where you are?

The trees that have been dropping like flies near my parents are mostly Black Pines.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 1:09PM
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The only problem I've had with my long row of spruces was caused by spruce spider mite. These are easy to detect, just by shaking a branch over a piece of white paper - the tiny mites fall off easily.

The use of insecticides increases the problems with this pest; mine survived a particularly nasty infestation only because I hosed them down twice a day with a sharp stream from a garden hose, as far as I could get the water to reach.

Actually I'm now facing a worse pest - a neighbor with a riding mower. To make his lawn easier to scalp, he's cut the lower branches back to stubs. I didn't plant these trees, the previous owner did, and they're old enough that the wide lower branches have encroached on my neighbor's lawn.

I may have to try the sharp stream technique again, and see if it works against riding mowers too.

Here is a link that might be useful: spruce spider mite fact sheet

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 2:04PM
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So far so good. They are all only a few years old and still small. I have read that Englemann Spurce is prone to this needle cast issue as well, but mine looks great. It's a special cultivar called Picea engelmannii 'Bush's Lace'... Very nice looking tree. I actually got White Fir this year to replace the Blue Spruce. White Fir has equaly as nice a blue color, but is not susceptible to needle cast.. The one I got is called Abies concolor 'Blue Cloak'. Alaskan Cedar does really well, but the deer some to love them. They took a pretty good chunk out of mine this fall, but next year I will add protection. Probably use clear fishing line around that area of the garden...deer go nuts and run when they encounter it, as they can't see it.

If I could only have one conifer, I would probably get Picea orientalis 'Skylands'... it's unbelievable, and seems to also be doing well around here. 2 year old now.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 10:02PM
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rockman50(6b SEMASS)

All the spruces in my area (south coast of Mass) look dead or dying. In my experience, they don't do well down here long term.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2014 at 3:37PM
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