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Dwarf Alberta Spruce
Saving a Dying Tree

Q: Hi, I live in Michigan. I have 2 Alberta spruce trees. One on each side of a picket fence. One is doing well, the other looks like it's dying. The needles inside are brown and falling on the ground.

There is new growth on the top of the tree. I have mulch around the bottom of the tree. I feel it's getting enough water.

I fed it with miracle grow the beginning of spring. HELP! I really want to save this tree. I planted it the day before my mom passed away and have said that they are my moms trees.

Desperate in Michigan,

A: If the browning needles are only on the inside, then it may just be normal needle drop. If the browning needles are on the tips of the branches, then the plant may truly be dying.

It's difficult to diagnose why the plant may be doing this without seeing it and the location. It may be that it didn't adjust after being planted (transplant shock). This is happens about 3% of the time when transplanting.

It may be that conditions are different on each side of the fence: soil type, soil moisture, sunlight, etc. may vary enough just a short distance apart, and be just enough to have an effect.

I would check around the base of the tree to see if the trunk is damaged, or to see if there is a girdling root encircling the trunk to any degree, which can choke it over time.

It's also possible that the root system has not developed sufficiently to support the crown's needs, or that is has been damaged due to the droughts and wet springs we've experienced.

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Tom Mugridge

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