Please Not Rust

Asked October 19, 2019, 12:36 PM EDT

My gorgeous blue spruce was planted a year ago. About 2 weeks after I mulched it with free wood chips, it looks like it is dying of thirst. Did I overdo the mulch, or is this a dreaded case of pine rust? Thanks for your help.

Multnomah County Oregon

1 Response

Spruce trees are plagued with many problems when grown here in the valley and in ornamental landscapes. I can’t tell from the photos what is happening to your tree. It could be natural shedding of the oldest needles, which happens each fall. I’ll give you some links for researching it yourself. Consider calling the Extension Service Master Gardener Volunteers to discuss your tree, which will include a full history of planting, caring for it, and possibly bringing branches in for further diagnosis. This page is from Minnesota, and though we focus on local resources, I’m sharing it because of the great photos. “Diagnosing Spruce Problems” Spruce rusts and fungal needle casts are described. Your tree might have drought (root) issues due to problems with planting or irrigation. That’s more discussion than we can do on this site, which is why the phone call may be best. I’ll note that conifer needles take a long time to reflect water problems, so two weeks of mulch can’t be the cause of the issue you are noticing now. (Think how long cut Christmas trees can last.)