The Q&A Archives: Evergreen

Question: Hello. I have a spiral juniper that is turning brown at the top and the middle of it while the bottom is flourishing. There is new growth on the entire tree, even where it's turning brown. This tree is a few years old and about five feet tall. What can you tell me? Thanks.

Answer: It's really difficult to make an accurate diagnosis without actually seeing the juniper. But, here are some thoughts: If the browning foliage is on the inner part of the branches and toward the center, it may be natural leaf loss (evergreens do eventually lose their leaves, but they're quickly replaced if the plant is healthy). Complete browning on only the top of the tree can indicate root problems - overly wet soils, fertilizer burn, etc. On the other hand, new growth is a good sign. I wonder if your juniper has become host to spider mites? Their feeding can cause browning of the foliage. A good test for this is to hold a piece of white paper beneath a branch and tap the branch. If there are insect pests, you'll dislodge some and will be able to see them on the paper.

You can assess the health of your juniper by scraping the bark off the stems with browning foliage, looking for live, green tissue. If the stems are brown all the way through, that branch or stem is dead and will not grow replacement foliage. If you find green tissue directly under the bark of the stems, there's still hope, and your juniper should produce new foliage. I hope so!

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