I bought two balcony sized cedar trees. After about a year, the first one turned completely orange and died. The second one is now looking dried up and starting to turn orange at the tips. The soil is moist. I water once a week. I have reportted to a larger pot than it came in. Is it possible to save this tree?
Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.
Keeping Cedars on a balcony can be tricky especially through the winter. Conifers often will not show their winter damage until summertime. What you are seeing could easily be the result of winter or spring injury.
The roots do not get as much protection in a pot as they do in the ground during the winter. Did you add any insulation around the pots to help protect the roots from experiencing freezes and thaws? Was the tree exposed to sun and wind during the winter days? If so photosynthesis can continue and use up all of the water stored in the leaves/needles. Once that happens the leaves can dehydrate and be damaged; it can take time for that to show on the plant. To avoid this, Cedars need to be well watered before freezing and mulch added to retain moisture and add insulation.
At this point there are some things you can do in hopes that the tree will recover. You mention you repotted since purchase. Is the pot you are currently using still large enough for the tree? When you repotted did you put only soil into the pot? If you placed any gravel at the bottom before the soil, the gravel it will imped drainage. This is the opposite of what most people expect. If you did this you should repot as this would cause excessive moisture around the roots. This could deprive the roots of oxygen and can lead to the problems you are seeing.
For watering you should check the pot regularly by sticking your finger a couple of inches into the soil. If it is dry it should be watered, if not then it should be allowed to dry out further. The best results are attained by not allowing the soil to stay too wet and also by not letting it dry out too much. Throughout the seasons the watering frequency will change according to temperatures and weather conditions. When you water the plant you should water it thoroughly and have some water flushing through the bottom to clean residue salts away from the roots. Water thoroughly so the soil is completely damp rather than small amounts more often.
You do not list the growing conditions for the cedars but you can look at the location and see if they are exposed to too much sun or wind which will complicate issues for you.
There are many articles in our library about cedars and also about balcony gardening. I am including a couple below. You can also use the search engine to find more.