The Q&A Archives: Browning Globe Arborvitae

Question: I planted eight globe arborvitae this summer. Over the past two weeks I've noticed when I pull back the branches the inside branches are losing their green color and turning yellow and brown. Further, the tips of the branches on the outside are beginning to turn brown as well. What is causing this and how to I solve the problem ?

Answer: The older, inner leaves of arborvitae (Thuja) naturally turn brown and drop in the autumn (similar to the loss of leaves on deciduous trees). This shouldn't cause alarm, and does not indicate disease. If the tips of the branches are turning brown, look for infestations of spider mites (they leave tiny webbing between the junctions of the leaves and stems), or consider cultural problems such as over- or under-watering. Sometimes the leaf tips will turn brown because they've been exposed to sudden temperature changes. Since your arborvitae have just recently been planted, they may be going through an adjustment period. Give them about an inch of water every week, and wait until spring to reassess the situation. By then they should be better established in their new homes and you can prune off the brown tips to encourage healthy new green growth.

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