Spruce Tree Problem


We planted these 3 spruce trees 16 years ago. 2 years ago the tips of 2 spruce started to dry out, see picture. We checked and found remnants of a wire basket at the roots, the wire clears the trunks by 6″ or more. What is causing this and what steps can we take to preserve these beautiful trees?

Andrea Kusters


Browning tips on Spruce trees can be caused by environmental, insect or disease problems. Stress from drought or poor planting practices makes the trees more susceptible to this problem. It is difficult to determine the cause by looking at a photograph. I would suggest enlisting the services of a licensed arborist to correctly diagnose the problem and then determine the necessary course of action.

During sunny, warm days in late winter or early spring evergreens lose moisture through their needles and frozen soil prevents the roots from pulling moisture up to the foliage. This can result in browning of the branch tips. If it is not too severe, the tree may survive, although extensive needle damage will lead to bare areas devoid of foliage. Watering at this point will not decrease the severity of needle browning. Prune back dead or affected areas.

There are many insects and diseases that could cause this problem including: Yellow-headed spruce sawfly, Spruce budworm, Spruce spider mite, Cytospora canker and Spruce needle rust. This link is to the State of Minnesota, Department of Natural Resources information sheet on Diagnosing Spruce Problems:


It is possible that the tree was not planted properly but it is unlikely that the wire basket has caused this problem. See this Landscape Ontario article on planting methods:


Best of luck with the rehabilitation of your spruce trees.

July 27,  2021