The Q&A Archives: Foxtail Spruce

Question: I have three, 5-7 year old Foxtail Spruce trees; two are growing fine, one is distressed. The color has turned more green than blue, and the tree looks anemic. It formed new needle buds last year, but the buds dried up so no new growth formed this year. I don't believe I am overwatering; what is your opinion of this condition?

Answer: It's difficult to diagnose a plant problem without actually seeing it, but what you describe sounds like the roots are not getting enough water; or are not able to transport the moisture up into the branches and needles. You can check to see how moisture moves in your soil by watering your tree as usual, waiting 3-4 days, then digging a hole near the roots. If the soil is still moist 3 inches below the surface, you won't need to water for a few days; if it's dry, it's time to water.

Spruce trees like moist soil but it must be well-draining so it will have enough oxygen for the roots. If soil doesn't drain quickly, root rot can set in, which will compromise the health of your tree.

Aside from investigating the soil moisture levels and checking for root rot, you might also inspect for spider mites. Their feeding can distort new growth and cause the needles to look pale. They're sometimes hard to detect, but if you hold a piece of white paper beneath a bough and sharply tap the branch, debris should fall onto the paper. Spider mites are tiny and look like little specks of pepper. If the debris moves, it's probably spider mites. If you find them, miticides are available in your local garden center. Be sure to apply according to label directions.

Best wishes with your trees@

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