The Q&A Archives: Cedars Browning

Question: We have two cedar trees on either side of our deck. They did beautifully all summer and fall (we moved in last May so we don't know how they did during previous winters), but earlier this week I noticed that the tops of the trees are full & lush while the bottoms of the trees are sparse and thin. It hasn't been that tough of a winter so I don't think this should be from the elements. We do have a family of deer who frequent our backyard, but I didn't think they would eat those. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: If there's a fairly distinct line below which the foliage is damaged, it's probably "deer browse". (They can only eat what they can reach!) If the pattern of damaged foliage is less regular, then it's probably something else. Cedars suffer in dry soil, so it's a good idea to make sure they go into the winter with plenty of water. That means deep, soaking waterings throughout the fall if nature doesn't provide. If you have sandy soil that compounds the problem. If you don't think water is the problem, another common cause of browned lower foliage is improper pruning. Hedge-type trees should be pruned in a pyramidal form, so that the base of the tree is wider than the top. That way, sunlight can reach the lower branches. Finally, winter damage occurs not necessarily from extreme cold, but from drying winds. This is a common problem on cedars, and if they are in an exposed site this could also be a factor. There are antidessicant sprays that you can apply in the fall to help the plant retain moisture.

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