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Q. I love your website. I have two Alberta Spruces that I am desperately trying to save. I bought them for my wedding and they mean so much to me.

One is healthy, while the other is dying from top to bottom. I have tried checking for mites, but all is null. The death growth is about 1/4 inch a day. Both trees are in well drained posts in Sunny/semi shade areas.

After discovering that they are dying I sprayed them with Diazomine (sp), hosed them to wash off any potential mites, and now water them quite frequently. What do I do to save the rest of the tree? Should I cut the top, use fertilizer spike or ????

A. Usually, a top-down symptom is indicative of a trunk and/or root problem. The causes can be many, so I'll pose as many options as I can.

If the plants came in a pot, the one having difficulty may have developed a root system that "circles" instead of radiates out from the trunk. If so, girdling roots can develop, which can slowly choke a tree.

Depending on how long ago you planted these spruces, you may want to dig around carefully to see if any roots are girdling others, or the trunk itself. If so, carefully sever the worst offenders.

If the plants came balled in burlap, check around the base of the trunk to see if there's a string wrapped around it, which can choke the tree. If so, carefully cut and remove it. Also check the trunk for any wounds or physical injuries that would inhibit uptake.

It's also possible that the plant didn't have a sufficient root system to survive the transplanting process.. In this case, sometimes no amount of care will help, and it may fall into the category of "lost to transplant." This happens to about 3% of transplants.

Or, the roots may have dried out too much in between waterings, are now dying or dead, and unable to absorb the water you're applying. If the soil they're in is very sandy, which drains well, this is a distinct possibility.

You can try pruning the top down and fertilizing in spring to try to stimulate new growth, but this will take a long time. Alberta spruces don't grow very quickly, so it'll be a while before you see results.

I hope this has been helpful, and that you're able to revive the ailing plant.

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Tom Mugridge

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