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LizStreet
Nov 13, 2016 10:49 AM CST
I recently purchased a home with some pretty sick landscaping. We are in a severe drought in the southeast. I have three of these that all look pitiful. What is the best way to prune & fertilize to get them healthy again?
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Nov 13, 2016 3:33 PM CST
Welcome!

Your plant is a type of spruce called "Fat Albert". It does look bad but pruning will only cause it to look worse. There are no green branches in the middle of the plant - if you prune, you will be exposing the dead sticks in the center. I'm surprised it has lasted this long. Spruce trees and southeast probably shouldn't be used in the same sentence. The only way you can get a Fat Albert to survive in your area is to mulch heavily and keep the soil constantly moist.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: J.R. Baca
Pueblo West Co. ( High Dessert (Zone 6a)
josebaca
Nov 15, 2016 10:10 PM CST
LizStreet; hello and welcome!
In my experience and job, I see this quite often and judging by your picture, I'd say that even if you didn't have a drought your tree would still have this problem. I would add to Daisyl's advice and suggest an acid infused fertilizer or amendment, (IMO) Miracle Grow has the best products for this problem, just keep in mind that if you use the water soluble powder, then you'll have to religously apply or you could get the tree stakes and pound them in at least twice a year.

Your problem is lime from the sidewalk on one side and the foundation on the other leaching into the soil, and MOST evergreens don't do well under those conditions. The sulphur in the stakes or miracid would bring down the ph level in your soil, and your tree will not only survive but thrive. There are some really good tips on acidifying your soil on the internet, just be cautious using sulfides nearly all of them can cause your soil to become toxic from the metal ' rider ' used to produce it. I'm particularly wary of aluminum sulfide for that very reason. But in any case; good luck and good gardening! Crossing Fingers!
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
Nov 16, 2016 4:04 AM CST
DaisyI said: Welcome!

Your plant is a type of spruce called "Fat Albert".


It's not 'Fat Albert'.



Maybe a dwarf Alberta spruce, not 100% sure.



Is the browning on all sides of the plant, or primarily on one side? One other thing to check for is spider mites.

It may have nothing to do with the problem but I'm not keen on dyed black mulch, I'm not sure if it's because it gets too hot in the sun or if it's the dye or coincidence but some plants don't seem to like it.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Nov 16, 2016 9:33 PM CST
Sorry, yes. Dwarf Alberta Spruce.

My recommendations stay the same: Spruce need a cold winter to thrive.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
Region: Canadian Keeps Horses Dog Lover Plant Identifier Garden Sages
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sooby
Nov 17, 2016 6:23 AM CST
Agreed, they don't typically do well in hotter climates, or drier, and the black mulch may exacerbate that. Those conditions may also exacerbate the spider mites to which they are prone and which can cause brown dead areas, so I still think it is worth checking for those.
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
Nov 17, 2016 8:33 AM CST
I agree too. Was thinking that the spotty browning on that tree looks like it could be spider mite damage. Here's what I'd do:

First, do NOT cut out any of the brown areas. You will just leave holes that will never fill in. Let the tree recover, hose it down from weekly in dry weather to wash off any new spider mite infestations and those twigs might grow new green needles. Let's hope.

Second you could cut off the dead twigs around the base if you want. Winter is probably a good time to do that. Or just plan to plant something around the tree that will screen that area in the spring.

Third, definitely cover up that black mulch with some natural colored wood chips so it's not so horribly hot in that area next summer. That poor little tree has been very stressed which would make it more susceptible to the spider mites.

I also hate dyed mulch whether red, or brown or black, but I'd dare to assume that the icky stuff has probably leached out of that mulch by now. Natural wood chip mulch does a much better job of cooling the soil since it bleaches out to a nice light color. All plants appreciate having their roots kept a little bit cooler in summer, not to mention the other benefits of holding in moisture and preventing erosion/compaction of the soil.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill

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