What to Do When Evergreen Trees Are Dying from Top Down

What to Do When Evergreen Trees Are Dying from Top Down

If you were admiring your evergreen and noticed brown, dead needles at the top, something is probably wrong. That isn't normal and could be a serious problem.

Plus, a pine or spruce tree donning a brown crown is no pretty picture. But does it mean the tree is dying from the top down? Or is the tree just in need of some TLC?

Read on to find out why your pine or spruce is browning and what you can do to save it.


How to Fix Pines, Spruces and Evergreens Turning Brown from the Top Down

1) Harsh Winter Wind

Problem: Frigid winter weather poses a threat to pine and spruce trees, particularly their treetops. The crown is an easy target for harsh wind or sunscald, turning needles brown or purple at the end of winter or beginning of spring.

How to Fix: Avoid winter injury by treating trees with an anti-desiccant spray in fall. Also, keep trees well watered throughout the year. A tree with too much or too little hydration gets stressed out and is more susceptible to damage.

2) A Pest or Disease

Problem: A number of pests and diseases can cause a pine or spruce treetop to turn brown. Let’s break down a few of the usual suspects:

  • White pine weevils lay their eggs on a tree’s main branches in spring. By early-to-mid fall, the hatched beetles start feeding on tree stems, cutting off their water flow.
  • Bark beetles leave a yellow-to-brownish tint on tree crowns. You’ll also find sawdust on the bark and base of the tree. They primarily target older or weakened trees.
  • One of the few needle diseases that attacks from the top down is pine wilt disease. Small worms called nematodes invade trees and quickly cause severe damage.

How to Fix: Inspect your tree for debris or insect remnants that can point to an infestation. Once you’ve identified symptoms beyond browning needles, call in an arborist for a free consultation. In many cases, using an insecticide or pruning away infected branches will get your tree back in shape.

If you’ve seen any of these symptoms, ask your Davey tree doctor how you can help your tree!

  • The Tree Doctor June 19, 2018 >Hi Efrain, Newly planted trees sometimes take a bit longer to get started because of the loss of roots during the transplanting process. If the twigs are still green, you may have to give the tree a little more time. If the twigs begin to brown or fade to a lighter shade of green, there may be other issues that stem from how the tree was handled before or after planting. I suggest you document your tree with photos and show them to the nursery where you purchased the tree. They may be able to advise based on its appearance. Your tree may have a warranty period that will be honored by the selling party. Hopefully, this helps. Here if you have any more questions, Efrain.
  • Efrain Benavides June 15, 2018 >My new spruce is showing brown just in the top. Is it dying? What do you suggest? Only a month since planted.
  • The Tree Doctor June 12, 2018 > Hi Joann, There are several possibilities as to why this may be happening. I recommend you contact a certified arborist and have them come out and inspect that tree in person. They will be able to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe a treatment plan accordingly, if necessary. Unfortunately, Davey Tree does not service your area based on the zip code provided. Here is a resource that will help you when it comes to hiring a certified arborist or reputable tree service: http://www.davey.com/arborist-advice/articles/hiring-a-tree-service-provider-or-an-arborist/. Best of luck to you. Here if you have any more questions, Joann.
  • Joann Sirico June 9, 2018 >My evergreentree and spreading yew has developed white flour like batches on the branches and trunk of tree. I don.t know if it's mealy bugs fungus or canker spores. These were planted in Nov of 2017 and just now are showing signs of something. Needles are brown and yellow in color. (Like you picture shows). Any help would be appreciated.
  • JOAN VARGO May 21, 2018 >The top foot of my cryptomeria black dragons (both of them) are brown. They were planted 3 years ago and are about 7 foot tall and 5 foot wide. Can I just cut off the top? Is this a sign that the entire tree will turn brown and die? I'd appreciate any help you can give me. Thank you, Joan
  • Ted Salkowski April 2, 2018 >Have a coast redwood tree growing from sapling about 15' tall. Brown needles from bottom to halfway up on side facing sun. What can I do to help it go back to green?
  • The Tree Doctor February 28, 2018 >Hi there, Butch. Based on your description, it could be a canker that developed on the upper trunk of the tree, causing the upper few feet of the tree to brown and die. If this is the case, the top can often be removed. There are other diseases that can also cause the upper crown to decline. The best option is the have a Certified Arborist evaluate your tree for a proper diagnosis. Hope this helps, Butch.
  • Butch Cruz February 27, 2018 >I have a blue cypress 50 feet high 20 years old but the top is turning brown. What should I do? Is it dying?
  • The Tree Doctor September 11, 2017 >Hi Joan. This sounds like it could be white pine weevil or a bag worm infestation. But, to be sure, we would recommend having a professional come out to your property to diagnose the issue. Hope this helps, Joan.
  • Joan Judd September 11, 2017 >My small blue spruces all trying brown on top. I trimmed the dead off but it still seams to be a problem. Can you help me?
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