The Q&A Archives: Sudden Die Back of Fat Albert Spruce

Question: My Monrovia grown Fat Albert and Dwarf Colorado Blue Spruces both began to die from the base up to the top. They were watered regularly. The dwarf was in the original nursery container and the Fat Albert was planted in the yard from a fifteen gallon container. There is no evidence of spider mites or borers. What can cause this type of conifer death? The progression was rapid. I paid a lot of money for these specimens and the local nursery I bought them from has gone out of business so there's no help there.

Answer: If there are no signs of insects or diseases and the trees died from the base of the trunk and moved upward, it's probably a root problem. Roots can die from too much or too little water, and are especially prone to root rot if the soil doesn't drain quickly enough. I'd dig the trees up and inspect the root systems. You'll probably find the cause - mushy, wet roots with fungal growth or dessicated roots. If you can't determine the cause of the problem, take the smallest tree, roots and all to your local Cooperative Extension office. They can diagnose the problem for you or send it to the University of California plant pathology department for microscopic inspection. Best wishes with your landscape!

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