The Q&A Archives: Save a dying tree in container

Question: Bought a Frasier fir as a Christmas tree in December '04. In hopes of keeping it as a container tree (since we live in the city w/ no yard), we transplanted the tree (removed burlap from root ball) and planted it into a container about 2 x larger than the root ball in Mid-January. In early March we moved it outside and the top 1/2 of the tree branches have now turned to brown needles while the bottom half remains green. Is our tree dying? How can we save it?

Answer: These trees are sensitive to temperature/environmental changes and need to do their gradual cooling for winter, winter rest, and warming in the spring naturally with the seasons. Since the top portion is dried out I am not sure if the repotting was unsuccessful or if the soil dried out or if the roots became frozen and could not take up water, or if the temperature change was too abrupt for it. Unfortunately I do think it is probably dying. You could try keeping the soil slightly moist (dig down and feel it with your finger, when you water make sure the water is soaking into both the old and new soils because sometimes they dry out at different speeds if they are not well matched) but honestly I don't think you can keep it going in the long run unless you can find a home for it where it can be planted in the ground -- soon. I'm sorry I can't be more encouraging.

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