New Blue Spruce Dead? #264539 - Ask Extension

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New Blue Spruce Dead? #264539

Asked July 24, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT

We have a 5 ft tall blue spruce that was planted during landscaping the early part of last Sept. This spring with all the rain, it got many new "buds" on the ends of the branches and was a beautiful blue but, lately, it has started turning a grayish green and the needles are all drying out and fall off if touched. The new buds are dry as well. Could this be a case of too little water? We have a drip system that runs every morning for about 12 minutes that the tree is part of. Maybe it is getting too much water? There was rock around the tree which we have moved out, opening the area under the tree out to about 12 inches. The outside "dripline" of the tree is still over rock though as the tree branches extend about 2 feet from the trunk. We are desperately wanting to save the tree. Any suggestions on what we could do, or is it possibly too late already?

Weld County Colorado

Expert Response

Hello and thank you for contacting us!

Unless you are seeing signs of mechanical or insect damage, I suspect it’s a combination of transplant shock and lack of winter water, and with this year’s abundant rain it now may have too much water. The tree had enough stored resources to push out new growth, but it's now responding to stress.

Spruce trees have a moderate to high water need. That translates to 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk caliper per watering. The frequency of watering depends on the weather precipitationetc.   The safest method is to just check the soil around the plant regularly and water when the top few inches are dry.

All trees need winter water, and new spruce trees need even more monitoring and care. We had a dry winter. Unless we get 1” precipitation per winter month, we need to supplement by watering on days that it’s warm enough for water to penetrate the soil.

All that said, you can give it lots of care to give it a chance. It does not need any fertilization or root stimulator at this point. If it continues to go downhill, it might be worth checking into whether or not it has a warranty (keep an eye on the purchase date). If you end up having to replant, we recommend planting spruces in the spring because of its moderate to high water need.

I’m including links with information that you might find helpful, and answer more of your questions about the area under the tree (appropriate mulching will help hold moisture in).

Evergreen trees: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07403.html

Fall and winter watering: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07211.html

Care of recently planted trees: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/635.html

Hope your “Colorado” tree pulls through! Please don’t hesitate to contact us with further questions.

Karin

Weld County Colorado Master Gardeners Replied July 28, 2015, 2:56 PM EDT
Karin,
Thank you so much. We will continue to try to save it with watering. If it doesn't make it, our landscaper will probably want to replace it this fall in order to be within the 1 yr warranty. It was planted the end of Aug last year. If we must go that route, I will definitely keep your winter watering suggestion close to heart so we don't risk losing another one.
Brenda
The Question Asker Replied July 28, 2015, 3:33 PM EDT

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