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 June 12, 2018 >Hi Steve, Dead branches can be pruned any time of year. One consideration is that if the tree is an oak or elm, pruning is generally not recommended during the months of April, May, and June to reduce the risk of your tree contracting certain diseases. It can sometimes be difficult to remove a dead branch without inadvertently cutting into live wood at the branch collar. Otherwise, deadwood pruning at this time of year is fine.
  • Steve O'Neill June 6, 2018 >Is it okay to trim DEAD branches from trees at this time of the year?
  • The Tree Doctor May 24, 2018 >Hi Denny, This definitely sounds like you need a certified arborist to come out and take a look at these trees. They will be able to get a better idea on what is happening when they see these in person. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area based on the zip code provided. Here is a resource that should help you with hiring a reputable tree care company or certified arborist: Best of luck! Here if you have any more questions, Denny.
  • The Tree Doctor May 24, 2018 >Hi Brenda, We usually do not like to see vines climbing trees because they can sometimes hide defects in the trunk. They would not be responsible for the decline in the lower branches. There are several possibilities that for the lower branch issues. I recommend you contact a certified arborist in your area. They will get a better idea of what is going on when they see the tree in person. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area. Here is a resource that is helpful for hiring a reputable tree service company: Best of luck! Here if you have any more questions, Brenda.
  • Denny Sunde May 24, 2018 >we have trees from 3' to 70' that are dying from the bottom up same with the neighbor he has about 30 trees that are 20' to 30' tall
  • brenda Schultz May 23, 2018 >Some of my pine trees are looking like they are dying from the bottom up. I have cut the lower branches off and that does help some. I do have a white flower type vine that is growing in some of them, somebody told me that it is poisonous to the pine tree and killing it, is this so or possible?
  • The Tree Doctor May 22, 2018 >Hi Lise, There are several possible reasons to why this may be happening. I highly recommend contacting a certified arborist in your area and having them come out and inspect the tree. I could forward this to your local Davey Tree office if you’d like. You can also call them directly at 866-852-2533 or complete a consultation request form on their local webpage here: Hopefully, this helps! Here if you have any more questions, Lise.
  • Lise Andree May 21, 2018 >emerald spruce leaves are turning grey and dry.. its 4 years old..looks like its dying.. what can I give it...I water lots and in the fall I give it a evergreen spike
  • The Tree Doctor May 21, 2018 >Hi Paul, I went ahead and forwarded your issue to your local office. They are Maier Tree & Lawn Service and are part of the Davey family. You can also reach out to them directly at (507) 286-8733. You can also contact them through a form submission on their local webpage found here: They will reach out to you as soon as they can to schedule a consultation for your trees. Here if you have any more questions, Paul.
  • Paul Helmoski May 18, 2018 >I have several trees drying up from the bottom towards the top. This is the main trees in my front yard. I would really like to save them.
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