Sick pine tree! Help!!

Asked July 2, 2018, 3:50 PM EDT

This is a very old, tall pine tree. I water it monthly year round and it shows lots of new growth in most areas. One part is next to and somewhat shaded by another tree,a big elm. That section of the pine tree is dying. Above and below and all around, fine. Also there is a bed of pea gravel surrounding the tree. That is partly why I water it so religiously. Will serious pruning of the elm help? Do I need to drill into the ground to get more water into the tree? Help! I love this tree!! Will send pix, or we live about one mile from the Harvard gulch location if anyone would care to see it.

Denver County Colorado

3 Responses

A couple things strike us as we look at your photo and read your question. One, it's a spruce, not a pine, and spruce like a little more water and we have had very dry conditions for almost a year; many trees are showing the effects. You write you water every month, but that doesn't tell us how much water or how it is applied and we can see there is a table covering the roots. If lack of water is the cause, then giving it more is a good idea but might you would want to use a deep root watering needle rather than drill holes into the ground.

It also looks like there was some construction around this tree and certainly soil compaction or changes in surface conditions might affect the tree (people walking in the area will compact the soil, too). For instance, if a root was severed during construction, there could well be corresponding branch dieback. Here's a fact sheet from CSU Extension about protecting trees during construction:

We're not convinced that the Elm is causing the problem, so we can't say whether pruning it would help. Our recommendation is that you have a certified arborist take a look at the tree and make an evaluation. Denver Master Gardeners aren't equipped to do site visits.

Thanks so much for quick response!
I water in 4 spots around the drip line with the hose poked into the ground for about 15 min. Each spot. someone at your place helped me figure out how to estimate gals. Per min. Etc and this seemed to be appropriate. What do you think?
Yes regarding construction. This was about three years ago. Yes to table, but it is only rarely used.
How do I find a certified arborist? What will be the cost? I will do it a almost for sure but still curious about the cost of a consult.
Thanks so much for your help with my SPRUCE tree!
I would love your answers to the above questions

Woody plants (including trees) often don't show symptoms of damage or stress until 2-3 years later. With your construction happening 3 years ago, it's possible this dieback is related to that and the droughty conditions we've been having.

If you worked with someone to determine the water needs of your tree, we'd recommend staying with that.

Having a professional come out and look at the site will be better able to give you recommendations specific to your situation. Denver Forestry - (720) 913-0651 - has a list of licensed tree companies in the Denver Area.

To find a certified arborist, visit the International Society of Arboriculture ( On there, you should be able to search within your area. We cannot provide cost estimates, because each arborist sets their own rates.