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Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Posted by diy_rook MI (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 22, 13 at 10:56

Hey all - I have many Blue Spruce on my property and all seem to be dying from the bottom up. I thought lack of sunlight might be the issue for some that have become surrounded by bigger trees but even Blue Spruce's on their own with plenty of sunlight as affected. For some that had many clearly dead lower branches - I have been cutting the branches off. Is there a way to revive them? Is cutting the dead branches the best thing to do? I'm not painting the stubs after I cut them.

Thanks


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

hey... here in MI... there is a disease on older pungens... of which.. it is untreatable ... well let me put it this way.. it isnt worth the money .... to have them sprayed .. as the neighbor did for 5 years running with no effect ... someone else will address such ....

anyway..

the other thing is that these are.. technically.. forest trees .... they have the inherent genetics.. to lose lower branches.. as they develop into the telephone poles they are ...

look at your pic above.... if you were to trim all the branches off to say 6 feet.. you have a nice compact tree up there ...

your base problem is.. with the shade and all.. that the lower part of the tree... just isnt going to look like it used to ...

but frankly ... with the disease.. the issue for me comes down to whether i can remove a tree that size for free.. with my chainsaw.. or if i mess around with it for 10 years.. then have to pay hundreds of dollars for removal ....

if you were to cut that thing.. flush to the ground.. it will be dead... no need to stump kill nor grind ....

and you could plant something else... a few feet away .. more attuned to the new shade levels...

no tree is forever

ken


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

I have an older one that looked the same then even worse,had a hortculturist check it ,she said malnutrician.Started feeding it heavily and its is recovering remarkably.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Ok thanks - it is worth a shot. What did you use or recommend, fertilizer stakes?


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

The problem with that tree is most certainly NOT malnutrition.......in fact, malnutrition seldom manifests as interior and lower branch dieback. Not sure I'd give much credence to the horticulturist......

Colorado blue spruces are prone to a number of problems, both disease and insect. Without seeing inperson, that looks suspiciously like a combination of needle cast and spruce aphids (adelgids). Treatable for sure, but when the interior foliage is gone like that, it never comes back - you just have that little tuft of new growth on the ends. Silly.

Cultural conditions also come into play and can affect how easily these trees contract disease and pest problems. They are NOT "forest" trees naturally - they grow right out in the open and full on sunlight suits them best. Typically they have lower limbs that sweep the ground and usually do not become "telephone poled". They also have some rather distinct climate preferences - cold winters, hot, dry summers. It is rare to see a healthy mature blue spruce in the PNW for that reason - too mild, too wet and that combination of unfavorable conditions just causes sufficient stress to weaken the trees and make them most susceptible to insect and disease issues.

And you never want to fertilize a stressed tree - it just increases the distress and the plant is not able to metabolize the nutrients properly. Most established trees, especially conifers, seldom ever require fertilization (and any horticulturist worth their salt should know it!!)

This post was edited by gardengal48 on Thu, Aug 22, 13 at 15:39


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

The Horticulturist I mention is the in charge person at Whiteflower Farm ,Very well known nursey in CT.Large Bluespruce deplete the nutrician unless nuturally added supplemental feeding is required.My tree was much bigger tree than in this case and in 2 years of feeding it looks like a new tree.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

if you insist.. just fertilize your lawn properly ...and the tree will get more than it ever needs.. which is nothing ...

you arent feeding those larger trees behind.. so why would this one.. mysteriously need such????

and as far as spikes go.. just send me the money.. and i will pray for you.. and that will do as good as spikes ...

its needle cast and age ..... and there is nothing you can do...

ken


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Common sense helps solve these mysteries.Trees in a natural enviroment get natural feeding ,leaves,limbs etc,etc.Trees in an unnatural setting ,a front yard where natures debris is removed regularly ,whos roots go under side walks ,streets ,sand fill with no nutrician need to be fed.You can go to the bank with that .Tree spikes are certainly not very efficent.I use natures fertilizer.It works wonders,As a fellows says "keep it simple stupid"


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

What gardengal said.
I've seen many a spruce look like this in the DC suburbs on the lawn of a McMansion with a kelly green lawn, golf course quality, that was clearly pumped full of nutrients and irrigated. it's not a lack of nutrients. It's just that blue spruces don't belong in the east coast climate, end of discussion. Maybe they do better up in the high plains & mountains of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge. Some people get lucky and they look acceptable for many years, decades even. It's very rare. I know a very wealthy guy in the suburbs of PA with a huge (Mc)Mansion on several acres - he came from Colorado. He's been struggling to establish CBSs (& Doug Firs) but they keep dying on him. Probably because his landscaper buys a huge one, B&B and then plants it in very rich PA bottomland soil, then fertilizes all the liriope and perennials planted around them. It slowly kills them.

"The Horticulturist I mention is the in charge person at Whiteflower Farm ,Very well known nursery in CT"
Well, this was good for a laugh. If fertilzing helped your CBS, consider yourself very lucky.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

  • Posted by beng z6 western MD (My Page) on
    Sun, Sep 1, 13 at 11:40

Typical. Almost every older BS in this area looks like that, or worse. Simply not appropriate for east US climate, except maybe the Canadian border or upper midwest. Yet the retail stores/nurseries persist in selling them, and they get bought.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Common sense helps solve these mysteries

You're right!! And common sense dictates that a tree accustomed to a rather arid climate with some very distinct seasonal temperature extremes is not going to fair well in a climate that does not offer similar. And as to the need for nutrients in a cultivated garden, that is somewhat up for grabs - if other plants are healthy and with a lush, green lawn (most likely fertilized from time to time) adding nutrients is often unnecessary. Regardless, plant "malnutrition" does not manifest itself by the dying off of inner foliage from the ground up. Period. And that's an opinion coming from a degreed and certified horticulturist - me.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

"Typical. Almost every older BS in this area looks like that, or worse."

Although the funny thing is, once in a blue moon (no pun intended!) you see ones that look ok. In my parent's yard the house builder had piled some surplus fill up into a berm, maybe 3-4' high, to block a view of a big ugly VEPCO transformer. My parents planted a couple BS as a further screen on top of that berm. As of them selling the house in the early 2000s, they'd been there at least 30 years, were about 25'-30' tall, and still full to the bottom. They had good drainage and were never coddled...I'm sure my parents never messed with fertilizing our lawn which was an undistinguished mix of crabgrass & bermuda grass.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

I have to laugh at all this back and forth.

This pungens is slowly dieing.

No amount of anything will save it.

30 max years out of their normal habitat is about it. Most will cut and run before then. Yes I know their are exceptions. There always are.

Dave


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Just some random comments in case anybody has anything else to add to this subject. We are in SouthEastern Michigan, south of Detroit, in Ann Arbor, and every Colorado Blue Spruce in our yard is either gone or on its way. They were probably mostly planted from 1956 on. The one I planted in the middle of the front yard about 24 years ago is the reason I came to this particular forum. It has been "on its way out" for a few years now and I asked our tree person to cut it down to the ground and I plan to plant something nearby, maybe a Norwegian (sp) spruce, maybe something else. I read several years ago that these guys should never have been planted in this part of the country (we're in the Ohio Valley and that means very HUMID summers), that they are definitely Colorado-type conifers, loving the wind, sun, and drier conditions. The humidity that we get is the reason all CBSs got a fungus that has simply spread and it cannot be treated. Trouble is, our "tree guy" won't cut it down because he says he cannot cut down a live tree for moral reasons. I understand where he is coming from because i go beserk when someone cuts down one of the 200 year old trees in our neighborhood, but I told him that this CBS is DISEASED. He doesn't care. He wants to dig it out (from under our massive oaks and maples) and move it to his yard and bring it back to its former glory. Honestly, I want to cry. This once-beautiful blue spruce is huge and a shadow of its former self and I fear what digging it out would do to our other trees, whose roots run right into and under it. Now I've got to find someone who will cut it down.

We had them lining our property when we moved in about 25 years ago and the shades of blue were something to behold but they are now gone. I appreciate the reassuring comments above about there being nothing that anyone can do -- that's why I came here -- to find out. We just don't have the money to treat any that are remaining to see if they will come back.

Pat


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Blue Spruce can handle our higher rainfall here in the East, since much of the tree's native range covers the wetter side of the rockies, where rainfall is over 30" annually due to the upslope effect (the actual word escapes me at the moment).

The HUMIDITY in the air, however, is a different story. They always look horrible here in MD by the time they get to around 40'. When I lived in Ohio they lasted maybe 10 years longer but still died the same way.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

I'm glad to hear others in the East confirm this. Of all the conifers I have grown so far, the only one that looks terrible is Picea pungens. I have outright killed 1, returned 1, and have 2 remaining that are losing their needles.

This is my favorite species, but they just can't seem to handle our whether. As hairmetal said, all of them over 10 years old start to look like the above picture. I always thought it was due to shade, but I am convinced it's due to our humid weather. They end up getting Rhizophaera Needle cast or other fungal diseases. This is made worse if they are in the shade and if you water on the needles.

I normally don't spray chemicals, but would really like to recover my 'The Blues' and 'Glauca Pendula', so I sprayed them with Daconil as I am 90% they have Rhizophaera Needle cast. Will be sending a sample in for testing shortly, but can't wait to spray, as it must be done when the needles are 1/2 way budded...I'm told timing is critical


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Picea pungens species are good for about 30 years in eastern KS.

I think some of the smaller cultivars do quite well and last longer as opposed to the species.

At any rate needle cast is what diy rook is dealing with.

Dave


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

There seems to be some confusion. gamekeeper was originally talking about what happened to *HIS* Colorado Blue Spruce, which looked vaguely similar (to his eyes). Not having seen the tree and knowing nothing about the conditions, I'm willing to take his word for it that *HIS* tree was malnourished...no doubt there are a million things that can go wrong with a tree, and occasionally it's bound to be something weird and rare.

I'm worried by the talk about Blue Spruces in the northeast. I just planted a bunch because I heard they were slightly salt tolerant, spruce seem resistant to some local diseases, they look pretty, and the local soil conversation office sold them cheap. davidrt28, if Colorado Blue Spruce don't do well in the East Coast, what can you recommend as a replacement?

This post was edited by edlincoln on Tue, May 20, 14 at 22:45


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Although not identical in appearance, the best "blue" conifer I can think of for the East Coast is probably Cedrus atlantica glauca, Blue Atlas Cedar.


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RE: Blue Spruce dying from bottom on up

Abies concolor (White Fir) is often cited as a good (blue) alternative to Blue Spruce in the east as well... mine is too new to tell, but so far it looks good. Should also mention that there are some mature 30'ft specimens near my house that look to be in excellent condition, full right to the ground.

This post was edited by SC77 on Wed, May 21, 14 at 9:35


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