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Why Are Evergreens Brown this Spring? Ask an Arborist in Grand Rapids

Written by Dirk Bakhuyzen III | Thursday, May 8, 2014

This spring many homeowners are noticing that their conifers and spruces did not fare very well over the winter. They have brown patches of dead needles or even whole sections that are dead. Spruces are susceptible to certain pests and diseases, but in this case, we have winter to blame. Evergreens, unlike deciduous trees, do not lose their foliage in autumn. Having a different life cycle, their needles breathe all winter, but cold and wind put severe stress on them. Salt from sidewalks and driveways can also be very damaging. The trees that suffered the most tend to be the smallest ones, ones with thinner needles and fronds, or those directly exposed to wind.

The temptation for gardeners,landscapers and arborists will be to heavily prune the dead areas of their trees and bushes or even rip out and plant new ones because the discoloration is so unsightly and they assume the tree is beyond repair. However, there may yet be life in those branches. With evergreens, it's advisable to wait until the growth cycle is obvious. At the end of May or early in June, examine your damaged plants carefully and prune back only until you see new growth. Then water and fertilize. Given enough time, your evergreens will grow and may again be as beautiful as they were last fall. To avoid this happening again next winter, water your evergreens generously in the fall, and cover with burlap - but not too tightly. Remember, that foliage is living and needs air and light.

As always, Chop recommends regularly monitoring your trees and shrubs for disease as well as contacting a professional arborist in Grand Rapids with any questions you have about problems you observe. The earlier the intervention, the more likely it is that the plant can be saved and will thrive again.

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