Browning of Alberta spruce

Asked June 17, 2020, 10:23 AM EDT

We have an Alberta spruce that is probably 20 years old and has never had any problems. Very suddenly it has started to brown and drop needles. I see some webs, too, but don't know if they're connected. Is this a mite or what?

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

Hi - Your tree may have spider mites, which are extremely common on Alberta spruces. Read through our webpage about spider mites and how to check for them. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/spider-mites-trees-and-shrubs.

If you do not see any of the slow-moving spruce spider mites, then another possibility is that the issue is weather-related or a root problem. This plant is native to Canada and the Northern U.S. where it grows best in full sun and moist soils but not wet ones. If the tree has been in poorly drained, saturated soil for too long, it may have experienced root damage and is not able to take up sufficient water (resulting in the browning).

Once symptoms like this progress this far in Alberta spruces, there is not a lot you can do. They do not take pruning very well and pruning won't return the plant to a good healthy form. Replacement with another type of plant may be the best solution.

Christa