Cedar tree turning brown

How to Tell if Your Brown, Yellow or Orange Cedar Tree is Dying

Emerald green needles with a hint of lime or leafy green needles coated in icy blue— cedar trees show off their evergreen glow in such beautifully distinct ways.

But one thing’s for sure: brown, yellow or orange cedar tree needles aren’t so pretty, and they bring up a whole lot of questions about the health of your tree.

If your cedar tree’s not living up to its “evergreen” name, keep reading to find out why.

Will a brown cedar tree come back, or is my cedar dying?

Sometimes brown cedar needles are nothing to worry about, but there is a chance that the changing color could be a cause for concern.

Why is my cedar tree turning yellow, orange, brown or dropping its needles??

When your cedar tree doesn’t look like itself, it might just be going through normal growing pains, or a more serious problem could be brewing. Cedar trees turn brown, yellow or orange for a few reasons:

  • Seasonal Needle Drop. It’s a normal cycle all cedar trees go through. Here’s how it works: around late summer or early fall, cedars and most conifers need to let go of older, interior needles that are no longer doing the tree much good. Those needles turn yellow/brown as the tree phases them out and makes room for new growth from the tips. Rest assured that a cedar that’s only dropping interior needles late in the season will look good as new by next spring.
  • Drought stress. A cedar with a brown tint in summer is probably thirsty. You can check by digging down about an inch into the soil and feeling around. Dry or brittle soil calls for watering right away and more consistent watering and mulch moving forward. The key is to maintain soil that’s moist to the touch, not too dry and not soaking wet.
  • Pests. Spider mites, budworms and other pests leave their mark on cedar trees by turning the needles brown, yellow or orange. Luckily these invaders are easy to control. A pest treatment with insecticidal soap for mites or that contains Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt for budworms can nip an infestation in the bud, but catching it early is key.
  • Root trouble. Too much water from maintenance or flooding invites a fungus that causes root rot. Unfortunately, root rot is as bad as it sounds. With it, roots don’t get the oxygen they need, tree branches gradually turn brown, and eventually, the tree dies. While there’s no way to stop the spread of root rot once a tree is affected, removing an infected cedar tree will help lessen the risk to nearby trees from the nasty root rot fungus.

How do I tell if my cedar tree is dying or if it will come back?

Oftentimes a discolored cedar tree that has no other symptoms will rebound the following spring with the right care. But when tree problems move past the foliage, it could spell trouble. Root rot, for example, doesn’t just turn needles brown, it may also leave a distinct white fungus at the base of the tree.
If you’re not quite sure what’s up with your cedar, the best thing you can do is call in an arborist. He or she will inspect the tree to diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of action.

Winter Damage To Cedars: Repairing Winter Damage On Cedar Trees

Are you seeing dead needles appear on the outer edges of your cedars? This could be symptomatic of winter damage to cedars. Winter cold and ice can result in winter damage to trees and shrubs, including Blue Atlas cedar, deodar cedar and Lebanon cedar. But you may not see the evidence of freeze damage until after temperatures warm and growth starts up again. Read on for information about cedar trees and winter damage.

Cedar Trees and Winter Damage

Cedars are evergreen conifers with needle-like leaves that stay on the tree all winter long. The trees go through “hardening off” in the autumn to prepare them for winter’s worst. The trees close down growth and slow transpiration and consumption of nutrients.

You need to think about cedar trees and winter damage after you experience a few warm days in winter. Winter damage to cedars occurs when cedars are warmed all day by winter sun. Cedar trees damaged in winter are those that receive enough sunshine to make the needle cells thaw.

Cedar Trees Damaged in Winter

Winter damage to trees and shrubs happens the same day the foliage thaws. The temperature drops at night and the needle cells freeze again. They burst as they refreeze and, in time, die off.

This results in the winter damage to cedars you see in spring, like dead foliage. Read on for information about the steps you should take to begin repairing winter damage on cedar.

Repairing Winter Damage on Cedar Trees

You won’t be able to tell right away if the weather has caused winter damage to trees and shrubs, since all cedars lose some needles in fall. Don’t take any action to start repairing winter damage on cedar trees until you can inspect the new spring growth.

Instead of pruning in spring, fertilize the trees with landscape tree food, then apply liquid feeder to the foliage daily during April and May. At some point in June, evaluate any winter damage that may be present.

You can do this by scratching the stems of the cedars to see if the tissue beneath is green. Prune back any branches where the tissue is brown. Cut back each branch to healthy stems with green tissue.

Once you have removed winter damage in trees and shrubs, prune the cedars to shape them. Cedars usually grow in an uneven pyramid shape and, as you cut, you should follow that shape. Leave the low branches long, then shorten the branch length as you move toward the top of the tree.

When To Trim Cedar Trees: Guide To Pruning Cedar Trees In The Garden

True cedars are forest giants, growing up to 200 feet (61 m.) tall. You might think that a tree of that size could tolerate any type of pruning, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Some experts recommend against ever pruning cedar trees. However, if cutting back cedar trees is in the cards, proceed very carefully. If you prune too deeply into the branches of the cedars, you’re likely to kill them. Read on for information about how and when to trim cedar trees.

The Problem with Cutting Back Cedar Trees

The problem with trimming a cedar tree is that every cedar has a dead zone in the center of the canopy. The new green growth is dense. It blocks the sunlight from the older growth beneath and without light, it dies. The outer green growth does not extend very deep into the tree. If you are pruning cedar trees and you cut branches back into the dead zone, they will not regrow.

When to Trim Cedar Trees

The general rule is that you shouldn’t prune true cedars very often. While some trees need pruning to establish a strong, balanced or graceful shape, the three types of true cedars that thrive in the United States – Lebanon, Deodar and Atlas cedar – do not. All three grow naturally into loose pyramid shapes.

However, there are a few circumstances when it is a good idea to trim cedar trees. One such circumstance is when a cedar develops two leaders. Cedars are stronger and more beautiful if they have only one central leader.

If your young cedar tree grows competing leaders, you’ll want to remove the weaker one. When trimming a cedar tree in this fashion, do so in early spring. Remove the weak leader at the point where it connects to the main stem. Sterilize the cutting tool before using it to prevent the spread of pathogens.

Another time to start cutting back cedar trees is when you see damaged or dead branches. Prune out dead wood with sterilized clippers. If the cut should fall in the dead zone at the center of the cedar, cut it at the trunk instead.

How to Prune an Overgrown Cedar Tree

It happens. You thought your cedar would have enough room but it has filled up all the available space. That’s when you want to know how to prune an overgrown cedar tree.

If your backyard cedars are pushing their allotted bounds, pruning cedar trees to contain their size must be done with caution. Here’s how to prune an overgrown cedar tree. Proceed branch by branch. Snip off the green branch tips on the first branch, making each cut above a lateral bud. Then proceed to the next branch and do the same.

The key is not to go pruning cedar trees into the dead zone. Check before each snip to be sure that there will be green branches on the tip of the branch.

Plant name(s): Spruce, pine, fir, cedar, juniper
Symptoms / Characteristics:
Deciduous trees are characterized by the loss of the whole population of leaves every autumn. One common misconception is that evergreen trees and shrubs like spruces, pines and cedars do not drop their leaves. However, the leaves of these trees and shrubs have a definite life span, depending on the species and the environmental conditions. In general the concept is that each year new leaves are added and the oldest ones are shed. The needle leaves of spruces may last for 6 or more years, and therefore, there are leaves of several different ages on the tree. The old leaves of spruces are shed all year but mostly in the spring. The leaves of pines and cedars are actually shed as part of whole shoots. Needle leaves of Scots pine may last 2 or 3 years while some species of pine may have needles up to 5 or more years old. The oldest leaves turn yellow brown and are usually shed in the fall, making the tree look like something may be wrong with it. Whole shoots of cedar also turn brown and are mostly shed in the fall.
One of the problems with natural leaf drop is that it may be confused with symptoms of other problems such as disease, insect infestation or environmental stress. One clue used to determine if the leaf fall is natural or not is the location of the affected leaves. Because the oldest leaves are the ones to be shed, they are located towards the inside of the crown. If it is natural drop, the newest needles and shoots typically remain green and healthy. New growth is located on the outer ends of branches. However, certain diseases, such as needle cast of spruces, may show a similar pattern of leaf discoloration and drop, so it is important to investigate carefully for signs of other problems.
Control / Preventions:
If the tree is under stress, it may shed more leaves than it produces in a given year and the crown becomes thin. In this case, it is wise to provide sufficient water and fertilizer to reduce the stress and reduce premature leaf drop. Otherwise, because the leaf drop is natural, there is nothing to do except maybe dispose of the dropped shoots. It has been shown that when this material builds up under the trees, it may harbor carpenter ants which can invade the home.

Natural Leaf Drop Cedar

Natural Leaf Drop Pine

‘Wrap your cedars with burlap to prevent winter browning’

I’ve always found it a little ironic that the solution to preventing a cedar from turning brown is to cloak it in brown burlap.

But I get why people want to wrap them up. Those who wrap reason that having a brown burlap ‘motif’ for four winter months is a fair trade-off for eight months of gorgeous emerald foliage. Still, one very important question remains. Does wrapping a cedar in burlap really protect it from turning brown during the winter or is it just a waste of time, money and effort?

A bit of science

The first thing to understand about prairie cedars is that they are not true cedars. True cedars are members of the Cedrus family and are not hardy on the prairies. Instead we grow a particularly tough species called Thuja Orientalis, commonly called the white cedar. White cedars have two essential characteristics that allow them to survive in our harsh winter climate. First, they are very hardy in cold weather, and second, they generate a thick layer of ‘epicuticular wax’ that coats their foliage, dramatically reducing water loss.

During the winter, this wax is an essential barrier that helps evergreens hold the moisture accumulated during the growing season. Since white cedars cannot draw water from frozen soil, the thick wax has a huge impact on its capacity for enduring the winter ‘drought.’

Now, at first glance, a burlap wrap would seem to be a good addition in the battle against water loss. But often the opposite is true. Burlap-wrapped trees have less water loss due to protection from drying winters, but that benefit is offset by increased water loss due to heating of the foliage on sunny days.

What can you do?

Long before you even consider wrapping your white cedars with burlap, there are some critical steps to take long before the first snowflake falls.

The first step is to ensure that you have the proper planting site for a white cedar. Cedars grow best in rich, loamy soils that have plenty of space for root growth and water storage. The second step is choosing healthy, prairie-hardy varieties that were well maintained before you purchase them. A stressed white cedar at planting time will become a dead white cedar by spring.

I have close to 40 white cedars in my yard — some a metre tall, some four metres tall — and I have never wrapped any, nor have I lost a single one to winterkill. I wish I could say that I have some extraordinary skill when it comes to growing white cedars, but that would be a lie. I planted high-quality white cedars and my soil deserves most of the credit for keeping them in great shape.

Now, before I completely dismiss burlap as a tool for protecting white cedars during the winter, it can be a tremendous asset in a few circumstances. In windy areas, burlap can be attached to wood or steel posts and strategically placed a metre or two away from the trees to reduce wind and sun exposure.

Also, wrapping a white cedar may not help in the battle against water loss, but it can help in the war against foliage loss due to hungry deer. Anyone who has grown white cedars in rural areas knows how much deer love eating white cedar. Burlap isn’t perfect for preventing deer damage but it definitely helps. Spraying some Bobbex animal repellent before applying the burlap is also a good deterrent for the cute, but destructive, deer.

Winter browning is always a threat for white cedars, and like it or not, burlap wrap will always be a part of our community winterscapes. Who knows? Perhaps it’s time that we looked at burlap from a different perspective. Perhaps brown burlap is really just a blank canvas begging to be painted? Just saying.

Jim Hole is the owner of Hole’s Greenouses in St. Albert and a certified professional horticulturist with the American Society for Horticultural Science.

How to Revive a Dying Cedar Tree

Ever wonder if your cedar tree is dying? Beautiful and usually trouble-free, cedar trees make wonderful additions to any property. But if your trees are browning, it could be a sign that your cedars are dying. Pinpointing a single cause can be a challenge. In many cases, however, it is normally the result of a combination of factors like poor soil, environmental stresses, diseases, and insect infections. Saving your trees can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. If you’ve noticed an unusual amount of browning, here are some handy tips on how to bring back cedar trees.

Why are my cedar trees turning brown?

Use proper watering methods

Wondering what to do for cedar trees that appear to be browning? Whether it’s too much or too little, poor watering practices are often to blame for a sick tree. If rain has been scarce lately, make sure to water the soil around the tree deeply. Also, inspect the area where the tree is planted, ensuring it has enough drainage. Water-logging can be harmful to the health of your cedars.

Will cedar trees grow back?

Make the most out a mulch

As with anything, too much of a good thing can be bad—and that includes adding mulch to your cedars. Mulch can be a tree’s best friend, protecting it from diseases, weeds, pests, soil erosion, and extreme hot and cold temperatures. But adding too much can suffocate the roots. To allow for proper oxygen, make sure the layer of mulch is not too thick when adding it to the base of your cedars.

Do cedar trees need fertilizer?

Be frugal with fertilizer

Just because your lawn loves fertilizer doesn’t mean your cedars do. Excessive amounts of fertilizer can compromise the health of your trees. When it comes to fertilizing your cedars, its always best to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, contact a nursery centre or professional arborist for fertilizing instructions.

Do cedar trees lose their needles?

Prune properly

Want to know how to bring back cedars? Cedar hedge repair is important. Pruning is a huge part of keeping trees in tip-top shape, especially when it comes to saving your cedars. Prune away any dead or damaged twigs and branches. Also, make sure to destroy the clippings to help prevent any possible diseases from spreading to other trees. Pruning your cedars will not only protect them from diseases and pests, but also promotes healthy growth.

Browning can be a serious problem for cedars, but it is far from a death sentence. With some fast action, a little care, and a few helpful tips, you’ll able to save your trees and keep them healthy and happy for many years to come.

For beautiful cedar trees, visit Fraser Valley Cedars today!

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You are not alone in your questions about your Emerald Cedar hedge – the Toronto Master Gardeners receive many questions on the care and feeding of these popular hedging plants.

Soil quality is important, of course, and adding organic material really helps to give your new plantings a good start. However, it is generally recommended that you use the soil that was removed from the planting hole to backfill, adding triple mix or other organic material as top dressing. The reason for this practice is that when the roots encounter the high nutrient soil around the root ball, the tree is less likely to send out its roots looking for nutrients and water, leading to a smaller, less stable root structure. When the roots reach the garden soil itself, their growth may be slowed and their nutrient intake reduced, resulting in stress to the plant, which in turn can result in browning. If your soil is clay, this stress to the roots, and to the plant itself, may be more pronounced. This may be what your hedge is experiencing.

It is great that you are mulching under your hedge: a layer of mulch will hold moisture in the root zone, deter weeds and shade your cedars’ roots, and as you have done, should be kept away from the trunk of the tree. Top dressing with organic material every year is also a good practice to maintain the nutrient level of your soil.

Watering deeply and thoroughly (at least once or twice a week after planting, especially in these hot summer conditions) is key so that your cedars’ roots can take hold and spread. This is much more effective than frequent spraying or light watering, and can be done easily by using a soaker hose along the base of the cedars for several hours to ensure that the moisture reaches into the roots of the plant. Watering should continue well into the autumn until the ground is frozen to maintain adequate moisture through the winter. Cold winter winds can desiccate the foliage – once the ground is frozen, your cedars cannot take up moisture to replace what is lost from their foliage.

Deep, thorough watering can also help the roots in the root ball to separate and penetrate into the soil after planting: plants that have been in their containers for some time can often be root bound – that is, their roots circle around the pot and are quite tightly packed. If you did not loosen, tease out, or separate the roots somewhat before planting, your cedars may be experiencing some stress as the roots move into the garden soil.

Fertilizing the hedge with a 30-10-10 formulation three times in the growing season (May, June and July) is appropriate. It is very important to follow exactly the directions for applying fertilizers so that they are absorbed into the soil and are able to reach the plant’s roots. Don’t fertilize in late summer as the hedge needs to prepare to go dormant for the winter. In late fall you can fertilize with slow release nitrogen and phosphorus, which will lend the hedge a boost come spring.

Experts often recommend bone and blood meal as an alternative to another fertilizer formulation, so it is possible that the addition of a fertilizer for acid loving plants has resulted in some over-fertilization of your hedge. For more detailed information on how to fertilize, take aSh look at an earlier Q&A posted on our website, “Fertilizing cedar hedges“, which provides practical information for you.

Emerald cedars can be vulnerable to such insect pests as aphids and spider mites, and these do cause browning and death of foliage, but unless you are certain that this is occurring, the application of insecticides is not necessary; indeed, often light insect infestations can be removed with a strong spray of water, or with insecticidal soap. Here is some information on identification of and treatment for mites from another Toronto Master Garden post: https://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/askagardener/newly-planted-emerald-cedar-tree-turning-brown-from-the-outside/

It will not be much consolation to know that you are not the only homeowner to experience problems with Emerald Cedar hedging. Although it is a popular and reasonably priced alternative for hedging, these plants can experience stress on transplanting, and can be vulnerable to a few insect pests and diseases, as well as to extremes such as cold drying winters and drought in summer. If you bought your trees at a reputable nursery, they should be guaranteed for a year, and you should be able to return them.

This is a brief overview of some of the issues that may be causing your cedars to turn brown; if you search on our “Ask a Master Gardener” website using the word “emerald”, you will find several other posts answering questions on Emerald Cedars on a variety of topics.

Weeping Alaskan Cedar Dying?

When I see evergreen trees that look like the one in the picture, rarely do they ever come out of that. These trees need moist, but well-drained soil. They need organic matter. Your clay soil may be the issue. Not sure why one tree tolerates it but the other does not. One tree may be taking moisture and nutrients away from the other one. Keep these trees watered during periods of drought. Do not let the soil dry out totally around them. These trees can get really big and need lots of space. They prefer full sun but will tolerate light shade. These trees are pretty much disease and insect free, so most likely you have a soil issue going on. I really think they are too close together and the other tree is taking away moisture from the other one, but the clay soil could be factor also. I’m sorry, but rarely do evergreens turn green again after turning brown like this one. If you plant another one make sure it has lots of space. Open areas are good for these types of evergreen trees.

What Now Brown Evergreen?

June 24th, 2014

A few weeks ago, tons of gardeners were fretting about whether their butterfly bushes, crape myrtles, hydrangeas and such would bounce back from their winter de-leafing and diebacks.

Browning of evergreens like on this weeping Alaska cedar is more pronounced this year… but usually not a sign of impending doom.

For the most part, they have.

It took forever because of the cool start to the season, but by and large, winter-damaged plants have either re-leafed or pushed new growth from the base to replace dead shoots.

What’s more on people’s minds now is the sad state of some needled evergreens.

Like broadleaf evergreens such as holly, boxwood and cherry laurel, needled evergreens (spruce, fir, pine, etc.) continue to lose moisture all winter. When the ground freezes for a long period of time, plants can’t replace the lost moisture. At some point, the “account gets overdrawn,” and the needles brown, starting with the tips first.

Leyland cypress is at the top of this year’s browning list.

This super-fast-growing screening evergreen took variable hits, ranging from ones that totally browned all over to ones that browned only the wind side to ones that came out of winter looking fairly normal.

Cryptomeria (Japanese red cedar) is another species that’s had browning issues. And surprisingly, even many comfortably cold-hardy weeping Alaska cedars are looking haggard.

The question everyone wants answered is whether these browned and brownish evergreens are going to be OK.

Like most issues in gardening, the answer is, “It depends.”

The deciding matter is whether the beating was enough to outright kill the branches and roots or just enough that it stressed the plants into more needle browning than normal.

Each species’ genetic cold tolerance is one factor. That explains why Leyland cypress took more of a hit than, say, arborvitae or juniper. Leyland cypress is rated for Zone 6 winters, which means -5 to -10 degrees is all it can tolerate.

Age of the plant is another factor. Evergreens just planted last summer or fall fared worse than established ones because the roots hadn’t had a chance to develop.

The specific site is another factor. Plants in open, windy sites or along roads where they got hit with salty snow-throw generally fared worse than ones in more wind-protected sites.

I can’t figure out why established weeping Alaska cedars are looking tattered, so chalk that one up as a mystery.

At any rate, a key clue to recovery is whether the needle browning is the whole way out to the ends of the branches or just the older, inner needles.

If the browning is confined to the needles toward the inside of the branches, those will drop, and the tree will be fine.

That’s what I’m seeing with Alaska cedar and cryptomeria. These just look bad now because there’s been more winter browning than usual and because those are species that don’t drop brown needles as fast as some species (i.e. white pine, which drops them all in fall within a couple of weeks).

Browned inner needles will drop and make haggard evergreens look a little cleaner.

So long as the outer growth (needles toward the end of branches) is green, your evergreens will recover. As this year’s growth occurs and the brown needles drop, things will look better and better as the season progresses.

On the other hand, if you’re seeing needles that are brown the whole way to the ends of the branches with no sign of new growth emerging, that’s a bad sign. Those branches are likely dead. You should be seeing new growth by now.

If browning is the case all over, the whole tree is dead.

I’ve seen Leyland cypresses in all camps. Ones that had some mild browning are pushing new growth and starting to come around. Others are totally brown and showing no sign of life.

A tougher call is ones in the middle – very brown but trying to push new growth from the interior.

With these, all you can do is trim off the dead wood and hope that there’s enough live growth for the tree to fill back in.

That’s going to require some patience, so the deciding factor could be how long you’re willing to put up with a scraggly and/or mostly bare screening plant that really isn’t screening anything at the moment.

Two other tests to determine whether your trees are dead or alive…

* The bend test. Try bending a needleless branch and see if it gives or snaps. Dead wood will snap fairly easily under pressure instead of bending.

* The scratch test. Use a blade to peel a little bark off a needleless branch and look at the color of the wood underneath. Live wood will be green; dead wood will be brown.

Keep in mind that you might be evaluating a tree that’s still in the process of dying.

Needled evergreens are pretty good at holding some needle and branch moisture for weeks after they’ve passed the point of no return. Think about how a Christmas tree stays green for more than a month inside even after it’s been totally separated from its roots.

A branch may bend for now or be green underneath and still be dead. All of the watering and fertilizing you can muster won’t make a bit of difference in that event.

This entry was written on June 24th, 2014 by George and filed under George’s Current Ramblings and Readlings.
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This Alaska cedar has a lot of brown needles, but they’re all on the inner part of the branches.

(George Weigel)


I have a weeping Alaska cedar and a cryptomeria that both are looking pretty brown. Both have been in the ground for 2 years. The Alaska cedar has a lot of browning toward the inside of the branches but good green foliage toward the outside. The cryptomeria is brown all over. Will these be OK or are they dead or dying?


A lot of needled evergreens like these two took more of a beating this winter than usual.

The variety made a difference (Leyland cypress, for example, really suffered), but young plants also are generally more susceptible to winter cold and drying injury. That’s because their root systems haven’t yet established enough to keep adequate moisture in the needles when the ground freezes and the winter winds blow.

Weeping Alaska cedar is a very cold-hardy species, but I’ve seen some of those looking more brown than usual. All of the browning I’ve seen on them, though, is the inner needles as you describe.

Those are older needles and can be lost. Alaska cedar just looks bad now because there’s more of this usual winter browning than usual, and because this species doesn’t drop brown needles as fast as some species (i.e. white pine, which drops them all in fall within a couple of weeks).

So long as the outer growth (needles toward the end of branches) is green, the tree is fine. As this year’s growth occurs and the brown needles drop, your weeping Alaska cedar should look better and better as the season progresses.

Cryptomeria (Japanese red cedar) is a bit less cold-hardy and suffered more, especially in open, windy areas. I’d also look for green growth at the tips. If that’s occurring, let the tree alone and give it time to recover.

If needles are brown the whole way to the ends of the branches with no sign of new growth emerging, that’s a bad sign. Those branches are likely dead. And if that’s the case all over, the whole tree is dead.

You could wait another couple of weeks to see if anything happens late, but if everything is still brown in July, the tree is a goner.

I’ve seen Leyland cypresses that look mostly brown, but by mid-June, the branches of many of these were pushing new growth from the interior. Only the ends of the branches died in those cases. Check to see if your cryptomeria is doing likewise.

Clipping or shearing off the dead tips will allow cases like that to regrow… if you’re patient enough to wait and OK with what’s left.


Your trees could be browning as a natural part of the needle shedding process which typically occurs during fall. Below is a link to an MSU article with further information about this process . Any extreme environmental conditions (i.e. drought, extreme heat, cold snaps after new growth has begun, etc.) can put the trees under stress which could exacerbate the needle shedding. Keeping your trees healthy with consistent moisture and a light fertilizer in spring, will allow the trees to rebound more quickly with new growth in spring.

If your trees have been browning all summer or have a different pattern of browning than described in the MSU article, then possibly the issue may be a fungal disease.
If you haven’t already, inspect the cedars more closely to see if you see any galls or abnormalities on the needles or stems. The following article will give you some ideas as to what to look for and management options.

If neither options above appear to be the answer you may want to consider calling an arborist to look at the trees and suggest a plan of action. You can use the following web site to find a local certified arborist, in your area: http://www.isa-arbor.com/
Another option would be for you to send a sample to the MSU lab for closer examination and more definitive diagnosis. To find out about this process, go to the following web site:http://www.pestid.msu.edu/
Hope that helps!

A friend of mine recently revealed her husband was worried about their western red cedar trees. You see, he’d noticed areas of orange foliage dotted throughout the canopy and thought they were dying.

I told her to tell him to relax. When sections of old cedar foliage lose their green color in the late summer through fall, it’s just a normal part of their growth cycle called flagging.

Soon they’ll slough off and you’ll have more important things to worry about, like raking them up and disposing of them, especially after a big storm.

You could dump them in your compost pile, along with all the needles from the Douglas firs that shed like Shetland sheep dogs shed hair, but they take a long time to compost.

This is true for most native conifers because of the waxy coating on their needles. Cedars are even more resistant to rot because of the anti-microbial oils in their tissues that inhibit decomposing bacteria and fungi.

Because of this, I keep a compost pile for my garden waste that produces several wheelbarrow loads of good compost every year, but small branches and evergreen windfall go in another pile to slowly break down over time.

Much, much later, I’ll incorporate it into my garden. In addition, I use worm bins for my kitchen waste.

As you can see, I don’t expect rapid returns on my composting investments and am perfectly happy to have a staring contest with Mother Nature.

Of course, there are ways you can make those cedar flags work for you. I consider it a happy accident that they come down right about the time I’m planting my garlic.

Now is the perfect time to get it in the ground to winter over and eventually harvest large, delicious cloves in July. Garlics appreciate a good layer of mulch to both suppress weeds and protect the cloves from temperature extremes that could cause soil heaving.

If you don’t have an excess of windfall to use as mulch, straw or leaves will work just fine. If you’ve got one of our native big leaf maples nearby, you’re sure to have enough leaves to bury an old Studebaker, let alone a row or two of garlic.

If you live in amongst the trees like I do, you can take a holistic approach to fall clean-ups and leave a bit of the dreck that accumulates beneath your evergreens in place.

This stuff can help prevent soil erosion and, just like for your garlics, act as a mulch to keep weeds down and water from evaporating. It can also help protect tree roots that have grown up onto the surface of the soil from repeatedly getting nicked by over-zealous lawn mowing.

This is assuming you don’t want to try to actually grow lawn under those conifers instead of letting them do what trees in the wild have a tendency to do: build up the forest floor.

If you‘ve been trying to grow lawn amongst the big trees, you’ve probably noticed some difficulties in that regard.

Shade is part of the problem, since most turf grass requires a lot of direct, not dappled, sunlight, but there’s also the issue of competition between the species.

Contrary to popular belief, most of a tree’s roots are fanned out near the surface of the soil – right where your lawn is going to want that water and those nutrients the trees are busy soaking up.

And then there’s the problem with moss. But that’s another story. For some it’s a really sad one too.

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