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Dwarf Alberta Spruce - Growth Questions

Q: I have had two Alberta Spruce trees planted in front of our house for almost a year. About a month ago, one of them started turning brown just at the top. Now the other one also turned brown at the top only.

There has been new growth everywhere else, even though the inside of the tree looks brown too. I heard that it could be spider mites, but I don't know what they look like. I don't see any kind of bugs on the tree.

Are these trees dying or can they be saved? They get full sun in front of our house.

Thank you for your advice, Ruth

A: It doesn't sound like an insect problem. Rather, it sounds like a trunk or root problem.

When an extremity (top, i.e.) begins to brown or die, it's usually something far removed that is causing the symptom. If the roots are unable to supply the top with needed water and nutrients, the top will be the first to show symptoms. The reason the top can't get what it needs is where the detective work comes in.

I would check the trunk for any obvious wounds that may be disrupting the flow up the tree. If you find any wounds, it'll be up to the tree to have to handle this (in other words, there's not much you can do to help).

Then, carefully remove soil over the roots near the trunk to look for girdling roots around the trunk, which choke the tree and cause the same symptom. Roots growing around the trunk can be severed to relieve the pressure and to eliminate further injury, but again, it's up to the plant to recover on its own.

You may also "wiggle" the tree to see how well it's setting in the ground. If it wiggles freely, it may just be that the root system has not developed adequately to sustain the top.

This can be a result of drought or too much water, so you'll have to do some detective work from this point on to try to determine the cause(s).

Q: I have a Dwarf Alberta Spruce that I have had for 7 years and it is growing what looks to be pine tree branch out the side of it.

I was wanting to find out can I cut this branch out? If so when is the best time to cut it out? It will leave about a 3 inch hole in the side when I do cut it out it will that spot fill back in ?

Thank you,Dawn

A: I have seen this happen before. Dwarf Alberta spruce is a type of white spruce.

What has happened is that one shoot has "reverted" to the regular white spruce. Although it may leave a small hole, I would remove the reverted shoot and wait for the plant to fill it in.

As dwarf Albertas are slow growing this may take a while, but it's better than having this shoot continue to grow and destroy the overall appearance of the plant.

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Tom Mugridge

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