Arbor Hills Tree Farm, LLC
Phone: (402) 895-3635
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Evergreens Turning Brown In Winter

Evergreens Turning Brown In Winter

Proudly living up to their title, evergreens are a constant symbol of emerald beauty in our landscape. They hold on to their needles or leaves year-round and always stay green.

Since evergreens retain their leaves over the winter they are susceptible to all the nasties of winter weather. They continue to use and lose water through their needles even when the ground is frozen.

Evergreens turning brown in Winter means they maybe losing more water than they can replace. Both young and mature trees can also show browning from salt spray from deicing salts.

Reasons Why Evergreens Turning Brown In Winter

  • Winter Damage. Evergreens do not tolerate drought very well. When water supplies are inadequate, trees will turn yellowish-green, then light brown, discoloring from the top down. Trees exposed to salt will also turn brown. Excess salt in the soil will cause leaf tips to turn yellow, then reddish-brown or reddish-purple. Over-application of fertilizer around the tree base can cause this problem. Salt spray will damage the side of the tree that faces the source and the leaves turn brown from the tips.
  • Animal Damage. Dog urine turns evergreens yellow then brown, at just above ground level. Eventually the foliage turns black. Other animals, such as rabbits, mice and deer, eat bark, causing the foliage to turn yellow then brown. Winter damage does not show until the spring and summer debarking shows immediately. If the tree loses its bark all round its trunk, it will eventually die.
  • Wind Damage. Strong winds cause browning on the side of the tree facing the wind. About one-third to one-half of the needle turns brown. Symptoms will often not show until spring or midsummer.

Fixing Evergreens Turning Brown In Winter

In these cases, the only thing to do is wait and see. It is possible that in the spring, the buds that have already formed on the tips of those branches will still produce a new candle (the  growth from which new needles emerge). We encourage you to wait to prune until you are certain a branch has died, as cutting a branch that has a healthy bud on it will result in no growth next season. You can gently pinch the buds on damaged branches to find out if they’re still healthy – a firm bud is a healthy one, while a dried out dead bud will crumble between your finger tips. In this case, as with sun scald, the best treatment is a good deep watering 2 times a month through the winter when possible.

With good maintenance practices evergreens should recover well from winter injury. Watering during dry periods and mulching with 3-4 inches of wood mulch can help trees to recover, stay healthy and hopefully be in better shape for next winter.


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