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!

  • Theresa Howard August 8, 2017 >Help my blue spruces by
  • The Tree Doctor July 11, 2017 >Hi Gladys. Great question! Since we do not know the specific type of Miracle Gro product you are using, we recommend following the instructions on the label. This should give you all the information you need to know! Hope this helps! Here if you have any other questions, Gladys.
  • Gladys Mead July 8, 2017 >My evergreen bushes are turning brown---I bought some Miracle Gro plant food. Do I put it on at the root?---Thank You
  • The Tree Doctor May 26, 2017 >Hi Michelle. Wow! That tree must hold many dear memories for you and your family. Now, let's figure out exactly what is wrong with those spruce trees. To do that, could you please send a picture of these trees to With that, our tree scientists will have a better chance of identifying the problem. Talk more soon, Michelle.
  • The Tree Doctor May 26, 2017 >Hi Bill. From the information you've shared, we believe your trees have rhizosphaera needle cast. The symptoms sound nearly identical. Though, there is a chance an environmental factor, like too much water, could be doing this to your trees. If it is the needle cast, branches that lose first-year needles for 3 to 4 consecutive years may die. We'd recommend having an arborist inspect the tree in person, provide an official diagnosis and create a treatment plan. Unfortunately, Davey Tree isn't in your neck of the woods. Though, this article may help you, Bill:
  • Michelle Russo May 1, 2017 >My 3 45-50 year old spruces in my front yard are becoming see through with a lot of dead bare branches, they have little holes in the main trunk and sap has dripped out, and green needles are falling off as well as dead needles. I would hate to loose my parents xmas trees when I was a child! But I not sure if I can afford to save them. What is wrong with them? Sincerely Michelle Russo
  • bill loebick May 1, 2017 >I have 3 large 30 foot plus spruce trees (don't believe they are Blue ). A couple years ago the needles on the lower branches started to turn brown which are then eventually sheded . Whatever the cause, it has spread upwards of 15 feet leaving completely naked branches below. Is there anything that can be done to save these magnificent trees. I replanted another that hs reached 12 feet but the same thing is occurring to it.
  • Lorraine Flynn March 2, 2017 >I was given a beautiful little Christmas tree house plant for Christmas 2016. I is now browning and losing it's needles.......directions said to water it from the top and let water flow down naturally to the soil and to plant it outside when weather permitted. I am ready to plant it outside but wonder if I waited too long. How can I revive it and plant it???? Please help....
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