The Q&A Archives: Can My Atlas be Saved

Question: My Atlas had new growth in the spring and appeared to be doing well. It receives compost in the early spring and again in fall. In August I noticed the needles appeared discolored and began dropping off. I sprayed for mites and other insects even though no webs or insects appeared on the branches or needles. My Atlas is now bald, the extreme limbs actually break cleanly but the limbs closer to the trunk can bend . Can I save my Atlas?

Answer: Whether or not you'll get new needles on your tree depends upon what caused the browning in the first place. Extended cold weather or a warm/cold snap can damage the foliage, but it could also be a symptom of root rot from over-saturated soils or damage from spider mites. Spider mites love dry, dusty places - like the foliage of evergreens in the summer months. Without knowing for sure what caused the problem, I'm not sure what to suggest. If you know it is not cold damage and that the soil drains well, suspect mite damage. These pesky little critters are so tiny, you can barely seed them without a magnifying glass. But they do leave behind some webbing so check the needles and branches with care. If you find tell-tale signs of mites, you may be able to control them by knocking off the dead needles and raking them up. As your tree develops new foliage remember to hose it down at 2-3 week intervals during the summer to discourage a new population of mites. Since the branch tips are brittle, it sounds more like a water stress problem rather than insects. Be sure your atlas gets a deep soaking once each week. Now that the weather is cooling and growth is slowing, your tree should be able to recover from the water stress problem. Hope your tree makes it!

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