Cedar Not Doing Well

(Question)

Hi there,

I have a small cedar at the front of the house. Planted a year ago. It is slowly going brown in the front centre and its expanding. It’s getting enough water.

What can I do about this?

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(Answer)

Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.

From your picture it is difficult to pin point exactly what the issue is but there are several possibilities.

  1. I cannot see in the picture if the tree is planted too deep. The hole dug for the tree should be no deeper then the root ball and none of the trunk should be buried or have soil or mulch up against it. The trunk begins to break down if there is any soil up against it which will eventually kill the tree.
  2. It could be damage from the winter. If that is where the sun hits the tree during a sunny winter day the leaves will begin to photosynthesis and use up the tree’s water stores. If this happens, in the spring the area will begin to brown and die. If you suspect this may be the case, it is a good idea to make sure the tree is very well watered just before the ground freezes.
  3. If there is an insect involved in the damage chances are it is spider mites. They are very small and difficult to see. If you put a piece of paper under the branch and shake the branch spider mites will fall on the paper and you will know that is the issue.
  4. Is there a possibility there was any local damage to the area from machinery, vehicles, or animals?
  5. You say it is getting enough water but is it getting small amounts of water often or is it being watered deeply and then being allowed to dry out? Frequent small watering does not give the plant enough water to thrive. Water the area deeply for a period of time ( half hour at least) then wait for the area to dry up before re-watering. Is there good drainage to the bed or is the tree water logged?

Cedar trees regrow leaves only from newer branches, the inner older branches do not regrow leaves. Hopefully there are still some younger branches left that will grow some new leaves and new ones that would emerge but, there is not much than can be done for the brown area.

Good Luck.