Ask a Question forum: Arborvitae Turning brown from ground Up w/ Pic

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South New Jersey
puck88816
May 16, 2017 5:57 AM CST
I live in South NJ, lost the tree behind these 2 last year (which looks like a bigger version of them) the same way, with it turning brown, yet it seems to be trying to come back a bit. Winter was fairly mild last year, only snow covered a couple times, barely enough to plow twice. Wondering if this is some sort of root rot, or the result of too much water since it's near the low part of the yard.
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Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
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Garden10
May 16, 2017 7:29 AM CST
Welcome! Hi puck, this isn't an expert's opinion, but the voice of experience garnered in north Jersey. I had a privacy row of arborvitae and they did fine for about ten years until I started skipping mulching underneath them -- the bigger they got on the bottom, the harder it was for me to get at, so I let it go (they were in a bed with a rock surround), and that's when I started to have problems. It was explained to me that they were being "burned" by the winter, didn't have enough water or protection, that it was probably the wind more than anything, and that I should consider wrapping them in burlap every autumn -- wait up for that to happen! I used to give them a dose of evergreen food every spring and mulch. Mine didn't look as bad as yours when I moved, but I did trim all the brown off in late spring, actually, a year ago as I write this, and it did start to come back by the time I moved in the summer.

I've also been told by a lot of people over the years that arborvitae have an expiration date, that they only last just so long before packing it in. I don't know if it's because they're being planted in the wrong places, if the supply we get are improperly grown for sale, or if it's just not true. Shrug! Hope that helps!
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
May 16, 2017 8:10 AM CST
Welcome!

If they are just regular Thuja occidentalis, they grow like weeds around here. They do naturally go less green in winter but not that much and there may be a reason why the one on the left is only brown at the base. Would it be too much of a privacy concern to show us a picture of their surroundings? There is paving and something blue, is that a pool? How far are they from the big tree behind them?
South New Jersey
puck88816
May 16, 2017 10:20 AM CST
Thanks so Much for the Replies. The (mostly Dead) tree is maybe 6 feet behind the other 2 trees, the only reason I don't think about
the Winter Burn theory is I have several other Trees in the same general area by the pool that are fine. (You can see 4 of them in the background) Not sure the dead tree is coming back, there is just a few green spots at the end of just a few branches.
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Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
Bookworm Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Garden Photography Garden Art Birds Region: New York
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Garden10
May 16, 2017 11:15 AM CST
puck88816 said:the only reason I don't think about
the Winter Burn theory is I have several other Trees in the same general area by the pool that are fine.


I had damage on about four out of 10, planted all in a row, I'm not saying it's definitely winter burn, but I even saw examples of it today while running errands, it's like a tornado, why does it destroy this house and not touch the one next door?
Shrug!

Since they are by a pool, do they get chlorinated water splashed on them?
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
May 16, 2017 12:02 PM CST
It may be too much water as it is near the low end of your yard. Also, if the Arborvitae were planted too deep, they could suffer from root rot and slowly die. Placing mulch against the trunk of the tree will also cause rot. They should be planted a wee bit high (an inch or so) with the mulch going to the edge of their little hill. Over the years, the Arborvatae may be sinking too deep, again causing rot.

Crawl under one of them and peel a little bit of bark off at ground level. If it oozes moisture or you discover mushrooms, its too wet.

Root rot is not instant death for an evergreen but once you can see it, often its too late.
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Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
Daylilies Birds Enjoys or suffers cold winters Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Annuals
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sooby
May 16, 2017 3:20 PM CST
Chlorinated water was what I was wondering too, Abbey, hence asking whether they are by a pool. It looks like there is a large tree that is also dead behind the brown arborvitae, is that the bigger one that died previously?

The common arborvitae doesn't winterburn here even in Zone 4a, whether any cultivars are more sensitive in that regard I don't know but the site looks rather sheltered and the browning is all around the plant so I'd be surprised if its that.
South New Jersey
puck88816
May 22, 2017 8:56 AM CST
Thanks DaisyI I did crawl under, the bark seemed dry, parchment like but there was a big build up of leaves underneath that were fairly wet. Sooby as for Chlorinated water, don't think that's a problem, it is by a pool, but any water that is drained for the winter goes out the other end of the pool down the hill well away from all of them.

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