bird's nest spruce

Asked September 29, 2019, 12:17 PM EDT

I have 2 Bird's Nest Spruce shrubs that are about 35 yrs old. Last year the top started dyeing out. This year began better but now look as they did last year. It could be spider mites for which I could spray. The side needles, however, also seem to be problematic. I'd like your opinion of them; could this be 2 separate problems or perhaps all from spider mites or perhaps something altogether different? I've included 3 photos. thank you Gail Burns

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

We cannot say for sure what is going on with the spruce. You may be dealing with several issues such as a compromised root system and/or spider mites.
The branch dieback and needle loss may be due to poor drainage, lack of moisture, too much moisture, etc. We had a lot of rainfall last season and this spring. Too much moisture reduces soil oxygen and there is root loss. Also, we had a very dry summer and this affects the root system too. Make sure there are no downspouts dumping water in the root zone and check the drainage in the area.

We are not thinking you have a mite issue but you can monitor. Check for spruce spider mites which are a cool season mite. Most damage occurs from March through June and September through November. Monitor for mites at this time. Tap branches over white paper and count the dark slow moving spider mites. There may be white fast moving predatory mites. You can look for this. Here is more information

At this point, check the drainage in the area, water during dry periods, and check for mites. Make sue mulch is no thicker than seveal inches and away from the base of the shrubs. Your shrubs have lived a long life. We suggest that you lightly prune dead branches and see if the shrubs respond.