The Q&A Archives: dying dwarf trees

Question: I have a 20 foot diameter round garden in the center of my front yard planted with dwarf conifers. I am in zone 7 and all the plants are suposed to be able to grow in that zone. The center of the circle is a three foot flag stone path that circles around the center tree. Half the plants were planted early fall 2004, half early spring '05. The center plant, a weeping Hemlock. It turned brown very quickly in late August and dropped all it's needles. At the same time a golden thread branch mop quickly turned brown and died. Three others seems fine. Then the two dwarf blue spruce top needles started turning brown as well. The dwarfs are all in a circle interspaced with blue fescue grass clumps. All the blue fescue died first and all at the same time. Any ideas why and solutions? We had a very wet spring and summer and all the plants seem fine until we had 16 days of no rain in late August at which point I started up the automatic sprinklers at the end of the first week of no rain, timed for once a week and then as the plants continued to loose health I increased to twice a week. The remaining three golden mops seem fine or maybe, slighly less intense yellow color than in the summer. The Blue sprouce are also less intense of a blue , where it isn't brown, than before. All other trees/shurbs and conifers in other parts of the front and back yard seem fine.

Answer: Allen,

The fact that several different species are affected leads me to think the problem is not a disease.

Both soggy wet or dry soil conditions can cause such problems. If soil stays to saturated roots can die and then when things dry out the plant lack enough roots to supply the plant's water needs. Try to keep the soil evenly moist. If the initial damage was not too severe they should be able to recover in time.

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