The Q&A Archives: Dwarf Alberta Spruces turning brown during winter

Question: We planted two Monrovia Dwarf Alberta Spruces early this past fall. Over the past few months of winter, I've noticed that the needles are turning brown. Specifically, the needles toward the tops of the trees and facing SOUTH are the brownest, the rest have a brown tint to them. I checked the inside toward the trunk and they definitely seem much greener (with the exception of a couple spots of bright brown- almost orangish in color). The branches themselves seem nice and flexible, but needles are falling off of them. Is it normal for them to 'shed' a bit, or no? These are planted at the front of the house, on either side of the front door. The house faces EAST. They really don't get much protection from any of the elements. (I'm not sure if that makes a difference to you with wind, sun, etc.) I have to admit, I'm not super concerned since there is a one year warranty on them, but I do want to find out what may be happening with these, as we'd like to replace them with the same thing, if need be.

Answer: Most evergreens do better if planted in the spring so they have ample time to become rooted and somewhat established before the cold weather hits. If they are not fully rooted, they are less able to take up moisture and are more prone to drying out in sun or wind once the ground is frozen. Based on your description I suspect they are drying out due to inadequate rooting before the ground froze, combined with the stress of winter southern sun exposure. It is possible the trees are dead or nearly so, so you should probably consult with your retailer. I'm sorry I can't be more encouraging.

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