Spruce tree dead leader

Asked March 1, 2018, 11:33 PM EST

I planted some spruce tress last year. They were 5-6 ft. potted trees. I think they may not have had enough roots. I am not sure but I think they may have gotten needle cast. It looks like the leader has died. What should I do? Should I trim it back to mske one a new leader? Should I sheer the other branches? Attached are some pictures.

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response

The damage resembles that caused by sawflies. Needlecast usually begins at the bottom and then moves up. You can diagnose that with a magnifying glass and look for black dots on the needles. Don't do anything at this point. Watch very closely in the spring for the sawflies. If that was the problem they will return again this spring. http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/diagnose/plant/evergreen/spruce/needleschewed.html
Don't trim back other branches. A new leader can be started later in the spring by trimming off the leader and then taking one of the most appropriate branches and tie it to a bamboo pole or similar straight piece of wood. If other branches try to 'fight' for the position, you can nip their tips a bit to allow your chosen leader to be the tallest. The wood will have to be kept in place or a year or more until the leader has grown quite a bit and is solid in position. You could have a certified arborist do an on site inspection. You can fine one by visiting this site and clicking on Find An Arborist. You can put in your zip code: http://www.treesaregood.org/