Globe Blue Spruce with Brown Needles

(Question)

I have a globe blue spruce on which the needles have begun turning brown. It looked very healthy earlier in the spring. It is in a garden facing north that has quite heavy clay soil. It is about three years old. Anything I should be doing? Thank you.

 

(Answer)

From your photo, it appears that the problem with the needles is occurring on the lower, outside needles. There are several factors that may be contributing to your tree’s condition.

According to the University of Illinois, environmental conditions and cultural practices can influence a tree’s health and longevity.

  • Problems arise when trees are planted in locations that the species is not well adapted to. For instance, spruce trees require full-sun exposures, and will grow poorly when planted in shade.
  • Soil conditions within the planting site are are critical to a plants health. Locations with poorly drained soils, such as those with a higher percentage of clay, are not ideal for spruce trees.  Soil amendment may be required.
  • Trees may need supplemental water this season and in periods of drought.  Summer drought can stress and weaken trees.
  • Other noninfectious problems that can mimic disease are such things as an imbalance in soil pH, poor fertility, fertilizer or chemical burn, root injury, root rot, drought stress, and spider mite infestations.

I cannot tell from your photo if there is any other problems such as sap leakage etc.  The following sites can help you determine if there is a disease or pest bothering your tree.

https://web.extension.illinois.edu/plantclinic/downloads/Plant%20Clinic%20Report%20Spruce.pdf

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/yard-garden/trees-shrubs/spruce-tree-diseases/index.html

In addition, a previous Toronto Master Gardeners post lists these sites for further research:

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex4144

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/gardens-gardening/your-garden/help-for-the-home-gardener/advice-tips-resources/visual-guides/spruce-problems.aspx

These resources should help you determine your next step in helping your tree improve.