Bristlecone Worries

Asked February 3, 2019, 6:33 PM EST

December 2017, we had our landscaper plant a 6' B&B healthy bristlecone on the west side of our house. Jan.-Apr 2018 was low snow pack. Warned not to over water it, we checked all around tree with moisture meter as town arborist advised. We watered about every 2 weeks with a tree bag around the base that dripped about 18 gal. over 6 hours. Healthy new growth started from tips in July-Aug. but browning of needles also started. Called company bought tree from, owner said we needed to increase watering to 1-2 times/week, which we did mid Aug to late Oct. Needles have continued to brown, interestingly more on south facing side than on north facing. Snow pack early Dec to present is 1-4" constantly. Is this tree dying, extremely stress, or what?photo1 is tips, 2 is west side,3 is south side.

Garfield County Colorado

1 Response

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Seeing that this is a newer transplant, I cannot rule out transplant stress as a factor in the browning of the needles. Newly transplanted trees can take 3-5 years to become acclimated to a new environment, and develop a healthy and supportive root system. That being said, it is difficult to determine if that may be the only cause of this tree's browning needles.

Do you notice any damage or markings on the trunk near the base of the tree? Has it been planted correctly and at the right depth? Is a root flare visible around the base of the trunk? You can refer to our planting guide for more specific details on what to look for in a correctly planted tree:

Other factors that can play a role in the untimely browning of trees can be associated with soil compaction, drought stress, salt injury, mechanical damage, under/over-watering, nutrient deficiency, etc. The best way to get to the potential cause would be to systematically rule out these common tree problems.