Reasons Why Your Evergreen is Dying from Bottom Up – And How to Save

Reasons Why Your Evergreen is Dying from Bottom Up – And How to Save

Think back to the early days of your treasured evergreen tree. With meticulous care, you watched the tree thrive–sprouting emerald-green needles from the bottom all the way to the tippy-top.

Years later, those older bottom branches become a target for disease and insects.

Evergreen trees turning brown from the bottom up are unsightly. Plus, you’re likely wondering if this means your pine or spruce is dying. Look for these symptoms to see how to save your declining tree.

Why is My Evergreen Tree Turning Brown from the Bottom Up?

1) Water, Please

In drought-like conditions, evergreens may have trouble getting enough water to all their needles. As a result, bottom needles die to help hydrate the rest of the tree.

This problem is easy to fix!

If the tree’s soil is dry to the touch, give it extra water through summer’s dry spells. Continue watering throughout the fall, and apply mulch to seal in moisture. 

2) A Pest or Disease

Evergreens attract a few common pests and diseases. Most commonly, there’s the pine beetle that attacks trees from the inside out, and the cytospora canker disease that leaves bulges on branches while seeping sap from the trunk.

Look on your evergreen’s branches for small holes or sawdust, which points to an insect infestation. To spot a disease on a pine or spruce, look for anything from large cankers leaking white sap to needle death on inner branches.

If you see something odd or worrisome, have an expert take a look. He’ll help diagnose and determine the best course of action.

3) It’s Just Natural. 

Evergreens naturally wean out older needles as part of their growing cycle. Plus, when higher needles branch out, lower ones blocked from sunlight may die off. Since trees have a finite amount of energy, they want to prioritize the needles that can get sunlight to complete photosynthesis.

As long as the soil is moist to the touch, and you don’t spot an infestation, your tree is in good shape.

Check in with your arborist to see if it’s safe to prune browning branches for a better appearance. Just to be safe! This way, if there is a problem, we can spot it and develop a treatment plan sooner.

If you suspect your evergreen tree is dying, reach out to your local arborist to see if and how it can be saved!

  • The Tree Doctor January 18, 2018 >Hi, Tammi. What you described sounds like seasonal needle cast. This is a normal process and the brown needles will eventually fall off. The brown sacs hanging from the branches sounds like the cocoons of bagworm. These bags can persist on the plant for many years. You can cut them from the tree during the winter to try to control them. Hope this helps, Tammi.
  • Tammi Coulter January 16, 2018 >Hello...The inside of my tall standing evergreens are turning brown and I don't want to lose them. Upon examination I have found brown cocoon shaped sacs hanging off branches. They seem to be empty since it is winter but they were like that in the summer and have multiplied since then. Thanks for any info...Tammi
  • The Tree Doctor January 11, 2018 >Hi there, Al. It could be a couple of different things that could cause this to occur. It could be needlecast disease or diplodia that causes the needles to turn brown from the bottom up. Herbicide can damage the tree, but it wouldn’t necessarily be from the bottom up. It could also be damage from the winter. It’s best to have a certified arborist evaluate the tree and make an appropriate recommendation. Hope this helps, Al.
  • al Ament January 8, 2018 > 6 pine trees dying from bottom up. Wonder if the fertilizer company we use every year with their weed killer is at fault !? Al
  • The Tree Doctor October 24, 2017 >Hi there, Marielena. Unfortunately, from your description it sounds like your evergreen has died. But, you can certainly send us photos (close up and showing the surrounding environment) to, and we can tell you for sure. Hope this helps, Marielena.
  • Marielena McLaughlin October 23, 2017 >Hello! My evergreen tree has turn all brown and I don’t know what to do? I would appreciate if you can help me. Thank you! Marielena
  • The Tree Doctor October 12, 2017 >Hi there, Judy. The pine dying from the bottom up could be natural shading out. As evergreens get larger, the upper branches shade out the lower ones and the tree naturally shuts them down. It could also be a fungal disease. We would need a photo to know for sure. You can submit photos to The same could be said about the bushes. Too much shade can cause the tree not to put any energy into keeping those inefficient branches alive. Hope this helps, Judy.
  • Judy MacDonald October 10, 2017 >Hello! I actually have a couple of situations that I am having. :( I have a large-ish pine tree that seems to be dying from the bottom up. This tree is about 20 years old and the top looks good, but the bottom limbs are either very sparce with needles...or nothing there at all. It is located in shade most of the well as two pine bushes, also about 20 years old... and these 2 bushes on this side of our house (shade) look to be dying on the back side of the bushes...but we have 3 on the back of our house...same age, planted at the same time and they seem to be just fine. Any ideas?...Can these 3 in the front of the house be saved? Thank you VERY much for you help!! :) Judy
  • The Tree Doctor October 6, 2017 >Hi there, Lois. Based on your description, it could be a variety of different fungal organisms. You can send us a photo of the tree to, and we will try to make a clearer diagnosis. Hope to hear from you soon, Lois.
  • Lois Blanche October 5, 2017 >Have a house with a lovely rounded evergreen which has needles turning brown from the bottom up. Could be drought? but we have had lots of rain. I live in southwest Ohio. Don't see any insects.
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