I planted 2 birds nest spruce 3 weeks ago as instructions asked. Have had 3 inches of mulch around and fed with evergreen feet. Watering everyday for 2 weeks and now every second day. Soil around plant moist. Had rapid green growth but now all the tips are turning brown. Getting worse each day. Almost looks like lacking water as color fading slightly. No mites present. Ideas?
Soil mixture of mulch and topsoil. Zone 3b. Weather wet/sunny. Direct sun for half the Day.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners.
The browning of the tips on your newly planted bird’s nest spruce trees is most likely a symptom of over-watering. You mention that you are in Zone 3b–was the ground still frozen when you planted the spruce? Does your soil have good drainage?
Although watering daily for the first week or so after planting is often recommended, the “wet/sunny” weather conditions probably provided much of the required moisture. One needs to take into account the soil conditions–if you have soil with poor drainage, then water may sit longer. Frequent watering simply provided more water than the spruce needed. Once the soil became too moist, the spruce were essentially ‘drowning’; developing roots need to seek moisture to grow and establish a healthy root system. The “rapid green growth” would have indicated that the spruce were adjusting to the transplanting. In addition, it is recommended, even in dry conditions, to water deeply less frequently. Given the weather and soil conditions, there was probably no need to water everyday or even every second day–soil can be too moist.
Of course, when one suddenly sees ‘browning’ on a plant, the immediate reaction is to think that the plant is drying out; sometimes that is the case and the impulse is to keep watering. However, ‘browning’ can also indicate over-watering. At this point it would be advisable to stop watering or fertilizing until the soil is less saturated with water. When you resume some watering, make sure soil has dried out then water deeply and slightly away from the rootball to encourage the roots to grow outward. Wait until the soil has dried out before re-watering.
We hope that your spruce will successfully recover; let us know how they do.