The Q&A Archives: Alberta Spruce loosing needles

Question: We have 2 spiral Alberta Spruces one on each side of our driveway up by our garage. One of them last summer started loosing it's needles towards the top. What can we do to help it? New growth is starting to show up on the bottom but the top not so much.

Answer: Usually, a top-down symptom is indicative of a trunk and/or root problem. The causes can be many, so I'll pose as many options as I can.

If the plants came in a pot, the one having difficulty may have developed a root system that "circles" instead of radiates out from the trunk. If so, girdling roots can develop, which can slowly choke a tree.

Also check the trunk for any wounds or physical injuries that would inhibit uptake.

It's also possible that the plant didn't have a sufficient root system to survive the transplanting process. In this case, sometimes no amount of care will help, and it may fall into the category of "lost to transplant." This happens to about 3% of transplants.

Or, the roots may have dried out too much in between waterings, are now dying or dead, and unable to absorb the water you're applying. If the soil they're in is very sandy, which drains well, this is a distinct possibility.

You can try pruning the top and fertilizing in spring to try to stimulate new growth, but this will take a long time. Alberta spruces don't grow very quickly, so it'll be a while before you see results.

I hope this has been helpful, and that you're able to revive the ailing plant.

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