Blue Spruce Turning Brown

Asked May 2, 2013, 7:04 PM EDT

I have three small (5 ft) that have turned mostly brown and one 30 ft spruce that has a lot of brown needles. Others in the neighborhood are doing the same thing but there are many that look healthy. This seemed to happen just in the last month.. I don't find any evidence of Ips or Pine beetle, or fungus or gall except for the Adelgid gall.

Could the drought last fall cause this?. I watered only a little during the winter. What should I do next to insure that my other two big Spruces don't turn brown? In the past I have seen one tree recover from something similar. What do you think.?

Thanks ,
Bob Carstens

Douglas County Colorado

1 Response

Hi Bob,

You are not alone, we are being overwhelmed with calls/contacts from people with evergreens that are turning brown in the last month.

This is likely due to the drought of the last couple of years, as you mentioned coupled with the record cold temperatures we had in early and mid April. The trees, especially those that did not receive adequate winter water (which is most) were very stressed coming into the spring. Remember we have had two full years of very dry winters and very hot summers, this is a horrible combination for all woody plants, but particularly evergreens as they are actively growing all year. These trees were just starting to come out of winter and setting buds when the extreme cold hit and really toasted the needles. Some trees have completely browned in the last month. Unfortunately there is little to be done now except make sure the trees receive appropriate and effective irrigation this summer. If they are on drip make sure it is in the right spot and working. If it is overhead irrigation make sure you are not over or under watering, as both are equally stressful. I wouldn't prune any brown branches off just yet, but rather wait and see what happens in the next few weeks. Some trees may not have dead buds, but just browned needles and might recover -- at least to some extent. The needles that have browned will not re-green however, they will eventually drop but the tree might replace them.

Good luck!