Dwarf Alberta Spruce problem

jesmello(z6PA)August 18, 2005

I have a 2 year old dwarf alberta spruce that is turning brown. It started out at the bottom and is very slowly making its way upward. What's going on? There is what looks like some new growth on what has already turned. But just on the front of the tree. Is there any hope or is it time to get another tree? Thanks.

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blueheron(z6 PA)

Could it be a lack of water? I know here in Lancaster Co our gardens were showing signs of drought stress until we had a good soaking rain on Tuesday.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 8:37PM
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Mine were like that last year and this year.Some say,its a spider mite which is hard to get rid of,then I heard too much water then to dry.So,I am playing a waiting game.When they both are brown and completely dead then they'll go but not until,at least they are green mostly.Good Luck...Koke

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 9:33PM
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It's spider mites.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 3:28AM
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How do you handle spider mites? Is there a dust I can buy? Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 4:30PM
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blueheron(z6 PA)

Did you amend the soil before planting it? Sometimes when this is done, it creates a bowl of free-draining soil that the rain goes through and when it hits the surrounding soil, the rain tends to back up and create a bowl of too-wet soil which drowns the roots.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2005 at 7:59PM
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I spray my alberta spruces really good every time I water. That keeps the mites out.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 2:39AM
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What do you use to spray them with?

    Bookmark   August 23, 2005 at 5:54PM
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This is what you must do to keep the mites from reattacking constantly.I have 10 georgeous Albertas in my garden. I weekly bombard the whole tree with full force water from top to bottom. I wear gloves 'cause I spread the trees in many places to allow the water to hit the inner part of the tree incase the mites are in there and they are. I lovingly pretend that these girls are my children and this is their weekly bath. Make believe helps me with Albertas.I also give them hair cuts a few times a years and this allows the light into the center which makes the tree lush.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2005 at 9:42PM
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Dwarf Albertas can be high maitenance, as you can see. Though they are slow growing, they can eventually grow to about 10' tall, so plan when you plant. They do best in full sun, and seem more likely to get mites if they are in any shade. They may have a branch revert to a normal White Spruce from time to time; cut these out immediately.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2005 at 1:41PM
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Saw this post & read it because my spruce is the same. Funny you metion the sun. Mine's in full sun but the browning is on the shady (N) side. I'll start giving it a strong bath (when this rain ends). Does it recover from the browning or am I stuck with it on the one side? Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2005 at 5:02PM
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alan_(s central pa)

Mine had spider mites for 2 or 3 Summers in a row and i did nothing. It looks just fine now. Spider mites seem to be more interested in younger plantings.


    Bookmark   October 25, 2005 at 10:41PM
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patckelly(7 delaware)

Is there anything you can do beside spraying with water for spider mites? I have never tried this... I use neem organic Bug spray and miticide, every few weeks and it doesn't seem to do anything. I really do not want to loose them I have several spiral ones and several other large ones in front of my house.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2006 at 4:46PM
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lbu68(z5 PA)

I use Malathion. It stinks like heck, but it does the job in 1 application. If your problem is due to mites the malathion will take them out and the spruce will rebound. I've seen some badly mite damaged spruces rebound very quickly. Spray the outside, spray underneath at the base and stick your spray wand inside the tree at various spots and spray there as well. If a spruce is planted close to a building the shaded areas can brown out. Also not enough water will cause this to happen.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2006 at 2:10AM
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I have 2 dwarf alberta spruces @10 years old and recently moved them. They were both in great shape. When moved both took to the new locations very well. But, this week the one spruce that I moved 5 ft from its original location has started loosing its needles. Can anyone tell me what to do. They were in their new location for a month before the problem started.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 12:52PM
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Everytime we move a plant, we have to tend the plant with extra care. If we move to a different location, we go through some shock and so do plants. I water alot when I move a plant. I also pray for rain.
I have just bought a Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Hope it makes it in zone 8.
We have alot of spider mites. A garden center told me to throw Orange Peels on the ground all around the plant. I do this all the time. I am not sure if it works. I have been doing it for a while around my salvia. I think it works because I haven't had to spray my salvia in a while. I have so many plants that I haven's paid attention. Just wanted to pass the Orange Peel advice along.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 11:04PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Dwarf Alberta Spruces have several unique characteristics. They don't like being planted near a wall or other plants. The side toward the shade or wall will tend to loose its green needles over time. Even though they are slow growers, they will eventually be come as large as Christmas tree and even larger, so allow room for them so they don't to near other pants and start loosing their needles.

Second, they tend to get spider mites. This is frequently aggravated by homeowners that blindly spray with the wrong pesticides. It is important before using any pesticide that the problem is identified and the spray is labeled for that problem and for that plant. Pesticide sprays damage some plants and spruce is one of the most sensitive. Also, some pesticides like Sevan make the problem worse since they kill the natural predators of spider mites but don't phase the spider mite.

It is always a good idea to make sure that any pesticide used will be more harmful to the pest than to the host plant.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 7:52AM
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This sounds like my problem...patchy browning all over the spruce. I'll try giving it a really good spray since it is a bit warmer.

What happens to spider mites during the winter?

Since Sevin doesn't work on spider mites, what does?

BTW, my spruce has been in the ground for 4-1/2 years and only this fall started showing brown needles.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 12:12PM
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rhodyman(SE PA, USDA Z6)

Sevin actually makes spider mites worse since it kills the insects that eat spider mites but does absolutely no harm to the spider mites.

"One reason that spider mites become problems in yards and gardens is the use of insecticides that destroy their natural enemies. For example, carbaryl (Sevin) devastates most spider mite natural enemies and can greatly contribute to spider mite outbreaks. Malathion can aggravate some spider mite problems, despite being advertised frequently as effective for mite control. Soil applications of the systemic insecticide imidacloprid (Merit, Marathon) have also contributed to some spider mite outbreaks." [http://www.ext.colostate.edu/PUBS/insect/05507.html]

Once a portion of a spruce has been defoliated (turns brown) due to either shade or spider mites, it will stay brown. It won't come back. The object is to keep the rest of the plant healthy.

The best controls for spider mites are beneficial insects such as small, dark-colored lady beetles known as the "spider mite destroyers" (Stethorus species) which are specialized predators of spider mites. Minute pirate bugs, big-eyed bugs (Geocoris species) and predatory thrips can be important natural enemies.

Adequate watering of plants during dry conditions can limit the importance of drought stress on spider mite outbreaks. Periodic hosing of plants with a forceful jet of water can physically remove and kill many mites, as well as remove the dust that collects on foliage and interferes with mite predators. Disruption of the webbing also may delay egg laying until new webbing is produced. Sometimes, small changes where mite-susceptible plants are located or how they are watered can greatly influence their susceptibility to spider mite damage.

Here is a link that might be useful: Spider Mites

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 5:16PM
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    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 6:58PM
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Has anyone kept the Dwarf Alberta Spruce in a pot for an extended time? I have a 2ft tree in a pot, and I am considering re-potting.

It has started to get some growth on the tips.

Is there a best time of year? Any good size and depth of the pot? Best potting material?


    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 2:03PM
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I've just started studying conifers at Longwood Gardens and the instructor has advised us that this spruce is not a good candidate for containers, hot locations, nor in crowded areas (air circulation). If this advice is heeded, spider mites may not be as prevalent. I have 3 of these, 2 planted as advised, the 3rd in a pot, and it suffered mite damage last year.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 5:46PM
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mikeg75(6b SE PA (South Phila))

I have a 3 year old dwarf Alberta spruce in a small spot to the right of my garage. I have a few neighbors who have similarly planted dwarf Alberta spruces in the same spot, and each of them has had browning in the side opposite the sunny side. My one neighbor told me about the spider mite problem as his tree was browning and ever since, I've been hosing off the tree with high-intensity beams of water every time I water it, and I've never had any browning problems.

I don't think you need any pesticides, just high-intensity watering every so often.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2010 at 1:55PM
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Funny, my dwarf Alberta Spruce in a pot has yet to show signs of spider mites. It's in full sun on a southwest exposure. The one on the rear (south facing) of my house is just now showing signs of spider mites on the side closest to the house. The one on the NE corner of my house is still hanging in there, but getting more and more bare. I've been jetting it with water, but probably not enough.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2010 at 2:46PM
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I have a spiral Alberta Spruce that was planted last June. I've had absolutely no problems with it. Two days ago I noticed some browning on the front bottom. When I touch the branch the needles fell off in my hand. Do you think they are spider mites? How long before they infest a tree do you have before the tree starts to turn brown. Can spider mites start in the late winter/early spring. There were no signs of brown prior to a couple of days ago.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 3:19PM
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    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 11:57AM
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I just bought 2 of these trees 3' in containers. One looks good except for few brown spots. Other one turned brown all on top shortly after got home. Mostly green on rest of tree with few brown spots. Have treated both for mites and tried to keep watered. They are on each side of front porch facing east. Should I cut all that brown top off and will it grow back, or is tree a total loss? First time ever had these, just like the way they look.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 2:05AM
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I have a Blue Spruce Tree growing out of the top of my Dwarf alberta Spruce Tree. Has anyone ever experienced this event?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 10:28PM
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Mike Larkin

remove the growth, it is a reversion back to the parent plant. if you do not it will take over the smaller plant.


Here is a link that might be useful: blog

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 6:33AM
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I bought a potted Dwarf Alberta just before Xmas this year and would like to know if I should put her outside now or wait until Spring rolls around. I am in a rural area, zone 4 outside of Montreal, snow, cold and damp. I ask this as I noticed some browning on the lower branches this week.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 12:08AM
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As I posted previously, they don't do well in containers. Best planted directly into the ground.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 4:21PM
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My trees are turning brown and its winter Feb now can't really water and didn't thinks mites would be a problem in the weather @ below freezing here in Michigan, any advice as what to do?

Thanks Mark Meyering

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 1:14PM
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OK, so you want to kill that ole Spruce Mite. But, first be sure you even HAVE the mites. Insecticides and miticides CAN do your Dwarf Spruce DAMAGE! Get an 8 power loupe or magnifing glass. Snip off some of the brown area with some green also. Tap the snips on white paper, use several snips. Go to work looking for the tiny lettle critters. Look close for "brown dust" that walks around. Be very diligent with your search! If you have mites, you will find them. As the other folks have said, water is your first line of defense! Blast 'em gently. When you water a spruce, use a lot. Then wait about a week before you water again. The plant does not like wet feet, but needs a lot of water in dry months; but, does need to have a dry period between watering. The large limbs that sometimes grow long and mature needles DO need to be cut off. They are full size white spruce and will grow like mad and sap the small tree to death. Best time to cut the "suckers" is in the dead of winter. Put "Tree Wound Dressing" on the cut. Leave about a half inch stub. Watch this area next year to see if there is any regrowth. Clip THEM as soon as seen. IF the limb is really large (2 feet or more) take off half one year and the rest the next winter and you won't stress the little plant. There IS a systemic granular application that works on the mites. Post your email and I will email you the name of the product. It is not registered for use on spruce trees. Ware a dust mask, should you decide to use it!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 1:05AM
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I planted twelve 7' dwarf alberta spruce 4 years ago. There
are a lot of sun and no other trees are planted close to them.
There were no problem before. Last fall 4 of them turning yellow stayed like that all winter and now in the middle of
spring those yellow spots become brown. Your advise what happen and what kind of product should i use to save the trees?
Thanks Felix

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 5:36PM
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I just purchased 2 dwarf-alberta spruce 2 days ago and planted one of them a foot away from the brick front of my house. Should i move it or will it be fine?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2011 at 8:45PM
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I have 6 Tall Sprial Albertas 3 are 6 feet tall and 3 are about 5 feet. My husband trimmed all the trees and now we have browning at the site of the trimmed areas on each tree. Why did this happen? They have been growing so beautiful, but they had became a little out of its spiral shape due to the growing in April!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 2:36PM
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I am experiencing the same problem. My spiral spruces were fine until we trimmed them because of overgrowth. Now they are experiencing brown spots at the site of trimming. PLEASE HELP!!! I love these trees and want to restore them. Will the green ever come back???

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 9:51PM
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Two 7 year old Dwarf Alberta Spruces are all brown on the inside, but the outside is green. Not sure what is causing this, Mites. what should I do to save these trees?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 12:36PM
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George Sharky, you mentioned a granular systemic product for spider mites on Alberta Spruce trees. Could you please e-mail me the name of the product? rcervant@esu10.org

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 10:46AM
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I overwintered my 4ft dwarf alberta spruce on my 3rd story balcony (In a 16" diameter pot) and it came back just fine this spring. Now with this very hot weather I have noticed alot of browning and needles falling off. I have been watering things plenty (and not too much). I have had problems with spider mites on my roses which I have been taking care of by spraying them daily with water. The spruce is between two Annabelle hydrangea's that are close to the base of the tree (not completely covering it though). I'm just not sure what is the issue with the tree... if it is just not getting enough sunlight because of the hydrangeas... or if it is spider mites. Upon closer inspection I couldn't find any signs of spider mites. The tree sent out new growth this spring and the whole thing was freshly green and now some of the new growth is beginning to wilt, dry up, and eventually lose needles.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 10:49PM
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I have 2 Dwarf Alberta Spruce's (each planted) in a cement urn. They are about a year old. One is on the NE conrner of my house while the other is on the NW corner. The one on the NW has mites. The needles have turned brown and are falling off. The brown is pretty much on the side that is shaded from the afternoon sun. I know for certain it has "mites" because I just performed the 'white paper test' ~ and under a magnifying glass ...there they were. Tiny little things.

My question?? Should I get rid of this plant entirely or try to save it? Will it ever become green again? or will it just stay brown.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 2:25PM
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Claire Pickett

If the tree still has some aesthetic beauty, treat immediately with a chemical like malathion...systemic. It will kill them immediately and you will have no further damage. I've done this many times.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2014 at 11:55AM
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