The Q&A Archives: What Can I Do to Save My Apparently Dying Italian Cypress?

Question: Hi there,

I have (3) 30 ft. tall Italian Cypress trees in my backyard, side by side. Two of the trees have patches, about 1 1/2 x 1 1/2, of brown, dead leaves. I'm not sure if these dead patches are getting larger or not, but I'm worried about losing the trees, as they function as a privacy screen from my neighbor's two story Victorian duplex. Both patches are about 20 ft. up, one is south facing, the other is east facing (neither patch bordered directly by contact with another tree). They have not received regular water during the dry summer months, but on occasion, have been watered, and once or twice fertilized with Green Romeo multi-purpose fertilizer. Any thoughts about what is causing this die back, what I can do to prevent it further, and what sort of care, in general, these trees need? If sI remove the patches, creating a bald spot in the trees, will the tree sprout new growth there?

thank you

Answer: It's really difficult to diagnose a plant problem without seeing it, but I can offer some suggestions for you to follow up on. The damage could be caused by drought, but 30' tall trees should be able to find ground water and survive a temporary drought. The most likely causes are insect infestation or disease. A heavy population of spider mites can make the foliage die back. You'll need to look closely at the damaged areas for webbing, stippling, or even presence of tiny little insects (use a magnifying glass). Or, you may find fungal growth. Either of these problems can be controlled with the proper chemical sprays. Sadly, conifers generally do not resprout because they do not have dormant buds. So anything you prune off will leave a bare spot in the tree. Since these are valuable specimens I'd recommend hiring an arborist to assess (and hopefully treat) the problem.

Best wishes with your Italian cypresses!

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