Why Is My Blue Spruce Dying? 5 Best Ways To Care for Blue Spruce

The blue spruce tree is among the most popular trees for landscaping in the upper midwest and Michigan. Blue spruce is commonly planted due to its natural beauty, fast growth rate, and blue leaves.

Under some circumstances, you might notice your blue spruce losing its health and answering the question of why is my blue spruce dying will help us keep it safe and possibly prevent it from drying together.

Blue spruce trees are vulnerable to an infectious needle disease caused by the fungus Rhizosphaera.

This disease, called Rhizosphaera needle cast, is the most rampant problem on blue spruce sampled by the Plant Disease Clinic.

The following are some of the reasons your blue spruce might be dying;

Insect Infestation or Diseases

Blue spruce might die because of either insect infestation or disease.

The insect and diseases may be made worse by stress caused by environmental factors such as drought, poor soil conditions, mechanical damage, and climatic condition like warm humidity.

Some of the diseases are such as cytospora canker, needle cast, and rust. The insect infections, however, are such as Cooley spruce gall Adelgids, aphids many more.

The following are some of the diseases that may cause your blue spruce to die:

  • Cytospora canker

Cytospora canker is a name for a fungal disease that primarily affects spruce trees older than fifteen.

Its symptoms include brown needles on the branches that may later fall off, the appearance of white residue caused by resin coming out from the infected parts of the tree, and dead or leafless branches that may eventually develop on the tree.

This fungal disease seldom kills a tree, but it makes it lose most of its branches, and eventually, it will die.

  • Needle cast

Needle cast is another fungal disease that makes the blue spruce tree shed its needles.

It usually affects new shoots at the end of the branch.

The infected needles do not die until the following year, creating an unusual pattern in which trees have live needles outer layer and dead inner needles.

This disease rarely kills the tree, but it might lose most of its branches and finally lose its capacity to live.

  • Rust

Rust is a blue spruce tree illness identified by orange to rusty brown spores visible on the twigs after the swellings formed break apart.

Rust mainly affects the twigs and the branches of the tree.

  • Tip Blights

Tip blights are fungal diseases that cause the new emerging shoots of a blue spruce tree to die back.

The disease is most common on pines, especially the Austrian pines, but it can also occur on blue spruce.

  •  Damping Off

Damping off is a fungal disease that mainly occurs in the summer. Young blue spruce trees are likely to be more likely to be affected. Their roots rot, leaves wither, and the tree will likely die if not treated.

The leading cause of this disease is a pathogen found in the soil, abnormal climate, or the soil being heavy with clay.

This disease also affects the blue spruce trees in low-lying lands with poor drainage.

You can prevent this by choosing varieties of blues spruce trees that have good resistance to the disease and also planting the tree in well-drained soil.

Irrigate the soil around with fungicides if the symptoms of the infection appear.

 The following are some of the pests that may infest blue spruce;

  • Aphids

 Aphids are insects that might infest the blue spruce tree.

It is a sap-sucking insect about 1/16 inch long and can be found in many of the tree’s needles during the infestation.

Some of the symptoms of an aphid infestation include yellowing of the needles. The needles may later turn brown and drop off, killing the tree.

  • Cooley Spruce Gall Adelgids

Cooley spruce gall adelgids are another sucking insect that can cause the needle to drop off and kill the branches.

It sucks juices out of its host plant. Spruce adelgids irritate the plant tissue, leading to cone-like galls forming. It is during the nymph stage that they do their damage. These infestations will not damage the health of the tree.

The damage they cause is more of an aesthetic concern unless infestations are constant and the tree is stressed.

  • Spruce Spider Mites

Spruce spider mites can cause needle discoloration and eventually kill the needles of blue spruce. Spruce spider mites are mostly mistaken for a needle cast disease because they both affect the needles of a blue spruce tree.

  • Longicorn

The longicorn pest is from the longicorn larvae. It tends to bore through the tree trunks to gnaw on wood, forming sawdust-like excretion masses on the bores of the tree trunk.

The adults’ longicorn feeds on the leaves. They make the tree weak and finally die. Sometimes they introduce other pest pests and diseases.

Spray pesticides to prevent infestation when they are found active around the tree trunk in the summer. You can kill the longicorn by injecting pesticides into the bores and sealing them with clay.

You can also paint the trunk white up to 2 meters high from the ground at the begging of summer to prevent the longicorn’s eggs from hatching.

What Is Blue Spruce?

Why Is My Blue Spruce Dying?
Image of a Blue Spruce

Blue spruce, also known as Colorado blue spruce and scientifically known as Picea pungens.

It is a tree that primarily grows in the rocky mountain region of North America.

Blue spruce belongs to the pine tree family. It was first discovered in 1862 on top of pikes peaks in colorado.

Although the tree grows relatively slowly, It lives long and may reach even the age of 600-800 years and up to a mature height of around 70-80 feet.

The tree was named by botanist c.c Parry because of its shiny blue color.

On the new young needles of the tree, a white powder is formed that gives the tree its unique silver-blue color. The needles have a very sharp point, and they are four-sided.

The needles are attached to the branch by a structure that looks like a peg called sterigmata.

On April 15, 1892, the state school children adopted the blue spruce as the official state tree of Colorado. Blue spruce is nowadays used as an ornament. It is commonly known as the Christmas tree.

There are different types of blue spruce trees, namely:

  • Picea pungens “baby blue eyes.”

It is a semi-dwarf cultivar that grows 15 to 20 feet tall.

  • Picea pungens “Bakeri.”

It has a deep blue color and grows 12 -20 feet tall.

  • Picea pungens “ Glauca Globusa” 

It is a dwarf variety that grows 3 to 5 feet high and 3-6 feet wide and rarely produces cones.

  • Picea pungens “moerheimii”

It has branches that sag and grows to a maximum of 30 feet tall.

  • Picea pungens “Montgomery.”

It is another dwarf variety that grows 5-6 feet high and has dense, blue needles.

How to Care for a Blue Spruce Tree

Blue spruce is a magnificent tree, and it’s upon us to take good care of it to grow tall and healthy. You can care for blue spruce by:

  • Ensuring it gets at least six hours of unfiltered sun per day to reach its full growth potential. It can tolerate some shade, but planting it in a low-light area can increase its chances of being infested by pests and diseases.
  • Grow your blue spruce tree in moist, well-drained soil, loamy, sandy, or clay. The tree is not fussy and can tolerate extraordinarily acidic and alkaline soils. The PH of the soil should have a range of 6.0-7.5.
  • Though the tree is drought tolerant and can survive with low water, it grows healthy with consistent watering.

Water your spruce tree regularly during the first season to moisten the soil. Water it only during the dry spells once the tree is established. Avoid planting a tree in water logging areas.

  • Plant your tree in dry, cold weather. Your blue spruce will not strive in sweltering conditions as its needles will turn brown and fall.
  • Fertilize your spruce tree to give the tree a nutrition boost. Fertilization will make the tree healthy, increase in length of the needles and improve needle color.

How to Tell If Blue Spruce Is Dying

Blue spruce is one of the most valued trees in Michigan and the upper Midwest.

It has so much to offer for landscaping because of its aesthetic appeal. Besides that, trees also play a significant role in improving the microclimate of an area.

Besides all the benefits and long life span, blue spruce trees face many challenges, such as pests, diseases, and adverse weather conditions that can cause them to die.

For that reason, it is essential to learn to tell whether or not your blue spruce is dying, and this is how you can tell when the blue spruce is dying :

  • Dying of New and Emerging Shoots

Blue spruce may be on the verge of dying when the emerging shoots die. Dying of the blue spruce is mainly caused by phomopsis tip blight, also known as tip blight.

The disease usually targets new shoots by making them curl, turn pink before turning brown, and drop off in the end.

You can test whether cutting a section of the back tree is infested by this disease by cutting a section of the back using a sharp knife, and if the canker is in the infected area, then the tree is infested by tip blight.

The tree may also have recessed areas on the trunk that ooze resin. The disease can cause the death of the tree.

It is crucial to be able to tell if blue spruce is dying. When you detect some symptoms early, you can save your blue spruce tree.

Nevertheless, you can contact a professional to help your rat against one of the diseases that can kill blue spruce.

  • Drying and Dying of the Lower Branches

Drying and dying of the lower branches signify something is wrong with the blue spruce.

The leading cause of the tree drying of lower branches is cytospora canker. The fungus that causes this disease lives behind the back and destroys vessels that supply water and nutrients to the branches.

The branches will dry out and eventually die if the nutrients and water supplies are cut out. As the tree moves up, the condition may worsen, and the tree will surely die after several years.

Another indication of this disease is a white sap that may appear on the branches or the trunk.

The fungal disease affects mature blue spruce trees older than 15 years. The disease is most common in trees planted close to each other.

Cytospora canker has no cure, but pruning can manage it. Constantly disinfect the pruning knife and the pruning cut. You may also get rid of the infected branches and needles because they may carry the fungus spores . one may also replace the infected area with a different blue spruce specie.

  • Needles that Turn Yellow or Brown and Finally Drop Off

Once you see that the tree’s needles are turning yellow, it is a red flag that something is off with it. The needles may later fall off.

A web may connect the needles a pest may infect the tree.

The blue spruce might die in three or four years, and the needle cast may be the cause.

If detected early, the disease is manageable.

The disease spreads fast, and treating it early enough using a suitable fungicide will help save the tree.

One can also contact a trusted arborist when the symptoms appear on the tree.

Can Dying Spruce Be Saved?

Blue spruce trees are widely cultivated because of their aesthetic nature, and their wood serves many purposes, like furniture and construction. They are also infested with pests and diseases like any other tree.

The good thing is that one can save dying blue spruce when it is treated very quickly; they can heal and be healthy again.

Often check the PH of the soil. Ensure that the tree is watered at least once a week. Also, treat fungal diseases and pests are treated promptly.

How to save Dying blue spruce

  • Determine What Is Making the Tree Sick.

Just like human beings works, you cannot treat a disease you do not know. The same applies to blue spruce.

You first determine what is ailing the tree and what is the cause of the problem the blue spruce is going through. Is it either infested with pests or suffering from a disease?

Also, determine which part of the tree is affected and whether the tree needs treatment. Check if the needles of the tree have turned brown or purplish.

Check whether the damage is on the whole tree or one side. Examine both the upper and the lower branches.

  • Check the tree’s location and if it is in suitable soil.

The tree’s location will help you know how to water it and its need. Give additional water when the top three inches of the tree of the soil are dry when you touch.

Plant one or two rows of wind-blocking trees on the windward side to protect the trees from winter burns. Check and ensure that the trees are planted in a suitable location and that the soil is not waterlogged because the roots could rot.

  • Check for fungal diseases and pests and obliterate them.

Cytospora canker is a fungal infection that could attack blue spruce trees. If blue spruce is infested, you may know if the needles have turned brown on the lower branches.

Prune back the affected branches to the next literal branch to control the disease.

Spray the pruning shear with disinfectant and let it dry before cutting the next branch. If the fungal disease is not treated, it could kill the branches and make the tree not pleasing to see.

Another fungal infection is spruce needle rust.

It appears on the tips of the needle of spruce trees. The needles may turn yellow with orange projections, and this will make the needles fall off during the fall season.

Pests like white pine, sawflies, and budworms may also attack blue spruce.

Examine the pest to save the tree from dying and prune away the dead tissues. Throw away the pruned branches. Use a household disinfectant to sterilize the pruning shear after every ten cuts.

The pest can kill the tree for about three to four years if left untreated. Treat the infected area by spraying an insecticidal soap and water solution. Make sure you repeat the same process until the infestation is eliminated.

For tall trees, you may hire professionals to treat the tree crown.

  • Deep watering

One can also save dying blue spruce by watering the plant deeply at least once a week. While doing so, ensure that the water reaches at least 12 to 15 inches of the soil.

Water once every two weeks for soil with a high content of clay. It avoids light watering as this could make the roots grow near the surface. During the late fall, give a final deep watering before the ground freezes or hardens.

  • Mulching

One can also mulch the root spread area to ensure that warmth is retained during winter and that moisture is retained during hot weather conditions.

  • Examining the PH of the soil

You should also examine the PH of the soil and make any adjustments the tree may need. Use a compound containing limestone to raise the PH and aluminum sulfate or Sulphur to lower it.

  • Use of fertilizers

Use Fertilizers only during spring and early summer. Fertilizing during late summer or fall will encourage new growth on the tree and will put extra stress.

Also, if you are uncertain about why your blue spruce is dying, contact a certified arborist to evaluate the problem.

How Do You Trim the Bottom of a Blue Spruce Tree?

Many people are usually uncertain whether it is OK to prune the bottom branches of a blue spruce tree. It is OK to prune the lower branches as long as the cut does not kill the entire tree or damage it.

Trimming the bottom of a blue spruce tree is very common in landscaping and makes the tree look even more beautiful. It also allows you to plant other plants beneath it.

The best time to prune your spruce tree’s bottom is early spring. Early spring is when the tree has not grown intensively, and one can easily pass through it. The damage on the tree will also heal quickly.

The unfavorable period is the late spring and early summer because, at this time, the blue spruce is growing fast, and its young growth is not yet ripe.

You can also damage other lower branches that are not planned to remove. In addition, the plant will lose a lot of juice from cutting off large bottom branches.

The right tools to use when pruning are:

  • Pruning shears
  • Garden Knife
  • Saw
  • Shredder

Before pruning:

Ensure you sharpen your tools well. The blunt tools will poorly cut the tree, and the blue spruce tree will not recover well.

Ensure you disinfect your tools with alcohol before you begin. Disinfecting your tools will protect your plant from possible infection with various diseases.

Use pruning paste to cover the remaining wounds after cutting the branches. It will speed up the wound-healing process and prevent diseases and pests from getting in the tree.

With that in mind, how do you trim the bottom of a blue spruce tree? Here are tips that will help you:

  •  Prepare sharp operating shears and gardening gloves for your safety
  • First, start by examining your blue spruce, preferably during the winter season when the blue spruce is dormant. Identify all the broken, competing, sick, dead, and insect or pest-infested branches.
  •  Remove the lower branches over 1/3 of the trunk diameter because this branch tends to compete with the tree trunk.
  • Remove the branches using sharp pruning shears while wearing your garden gloves. Cut the dead or infected branches close to the truck just after the collar branch.

Prune the broken branches at the break. For pest-infested branches, prune them close to the tree trunk.

  • Using a pole pruner or the pruning shear, prune the dead and diseased branches with brown needles.
  • When pruning the blue spruce, carefully cut the oldest and the lower-lying branches. You will know they are getting old when they start losing their natural blue color and the shading of their needles.
  • Trim the protruding branches, cutting them at an optimal length. Create even spacing between branches in thick sections to match spacing even in thinner ones.
  •  Cut the branches close to the tree trunk at a slight angle since this will make the cut less visible and pleasant to the eye.
  •  The excessive pruning of blue spruce will stress it so much that it may kill the tree.

Note that you should never shape your blue spruce by cutting off the top entirely because this can lead to decay, pest infestation, and diseases.

If your blue spruce is disorderly and messy, shape it by pruning the unwanted branches throughout the years.

Blue spruce is a beautiful tree, especially when you want to bring out the Christmas vibe. If you want to maintain its health and growth, then shaping and pruning will help.

Here’s How to Trim Blue Spruce:

What Fertilizer Should I Use On My Blue Spruce?

Fertilizer is not a “plant food,” as commonly mistaken, but a medium to give your tree the necessary minerals and nutrients.

A fertilizer is a material that supplies one or more of a chemical element needed by a plant for it to grow.

Most fertilizers that are commonly used contain essential tree elements, that is;

  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium

Different types of fertilizers may be used on your blue spruce, but you have to consider the soil’s PH levels, water retention capabilities, and the nutrients needed by the tree.

The types of fertilizers are:

  • Urea

Urea contains tons of nitrogen that will help sustain the plant’s growth. It also helps the plant retain its color.

How to Apply Urea Fertilizer to Your Spruce Trees

Using a sprinkler, disperse a small amount of urea. Constantly increase the amount to help increase its efficiency.

Another method is a surface application which entails applying the urea above the soil.

Advantages of Urea Fertilizer

  1. It is safe to use.
  2. It is cheap and effective.
  3. It is clean and does not leave any chemical residue in the soil.
  4. Suitable for more than just growing trees.

Disadvantages of Urea Fertilizer

  1. It can cause damage when over-applied.
  2. Need to be spread around by hand.
  3. It takes a while before it is effective.

Acidic Fertilizer

Acidic fertilizer is a fertilizer that is heavy in sulfur. It helps the tree get nutrients that might not be available at different PH.

How to Apply Acidic Fertilizer to Your Spruce Tree

You can add sulfur directly to your soil, but this will be a slower process.

You can also combine sulfur with other chemicals to help you achieve quicker results.

Advantages of Acidic Fertilizer 

  • It allows the tree to receive other nutrients apart from the ones it receives from the soil.
  • It is excellent for accessing new nutrients in the soil.
  • It helps in refreshing the soil around the tree by shifting the growth process on a chemical level.

Disadvantages of acidic Fertilizer

  • It takes time to work.
  • It requires PH testing and an understanding of the soil.

Organic Fertilizer (compost)

Organic Fertilizer is easy and accessible .well -rotted compost is made up of food scraps that have been broken down into dirt-like substances.

It is an excellent fertilizer for blue spruce trees.

The nutrients come directly from other plant produce. Organic compost will give your plant extra nutrients while you feel good about where your food waste ends.

How to apply organic Fertilizer (compost) On Your Spruce Tree

Let your leftover food decompose and turn into compost. Spread it on top of the soil. Mix some of the compost down some layers into the older soil for better results.

Advantages of Organic Fertilizer (compost)

  • It uses natural or organic materials.
  • Cheap and free to use.
  • Easy to apply on the compost older soil around your tree

A disadvantage of Organic Fertilizer ( compost)

  • It might be less effective depending on what material you compose

Organic fertilizer( shredded Bark)

It is an excellent organic fertilizer.

The bark decomposes slowly because of its size. Shredded bark makes the nutrients slowly released into the soil around the tree.

Shredded bark helps retain water( rain or irrigated) and soil moisture, which keeps the tree hydrated.

It also helps keep the weeds away naturally. This helps maintain soil, whose key role is to help the blue spruce tree grow.

Most importantly, shredded bark can make the base of your tree beautiful and pleasing.

How to Use Organic Fertilizer ( shredded bark)

Shredded bark is easy to apply. You take the shredded bark and spread it around the blue spruce tree.

Ensure your Fertilizer covers the soil surrounding the tree.

Advantages of Organic Fertilizer (shredded bark)

  • Safe and easy to apply.
  • Help in keeping the weeds away
  • Looks beautiful and pleasant in your space or yard where your blue spruce lives.
  • The effect takes a long time because barks decompose slowly.

Disadvantage of Organic Fertilizer (shredded bark)

  • It takes long to decompose as the bark decomposes slowly.

Combinations

It refers to using some organic and processed fertilizer to make your blue spruce tree healthy.

This is good when you are working to combine a high amount of nitrogen and still want to add some extra other chemicals.

A good combination will work best when you have organic material at home, but it may not be enough for the intended purpose. Then consider adding some other acidic or nitrogen fertilizer to your food waste.

Your blue spruce tree will get the benefits of both mixtures, and at the same time, you will make good use of your food waste.

How to Apply Combined Fertilizers to Your Spruce Tree

This depends on the product you are using. You can apply it on top of the soil. Then spray a little water after applying.

Advantages of Combined Fertilizer

  • It is environmentally friendly.
  • Sustainable and cheap to use
  • It contains multiple nutrients as it includes multiple formulas of fertilizers.

Disadvantages of combined Fertilizer

  • It may take longer to work, depending on what you combine.
  • It might not have the same effect as processed Fertilizer which has specifically designed formulas.

Overall, fertilizer is not the only thing you can add to your blue spruce tree. You must ensure that your blue spruce has enough of its needs.

You must add water to your soil every once in a while as part of your fertilizing routine. It is an excellent way to keep your blue spruce tree healthy and dehydrated.

Everything needs water for survival. People, animals, trees, and even the plants that grow in the desert have their reserves.

Ensure you keep up with those needs, and your spruce tree will grow and flourish at the rate it should.

Conclusion

Blue spruce is such a beautiful tree. However, if you do not take good care of it, you will get ill and eventually die.

There are several reasons why your blue spruce is dying, but insect infestation and diseases are the main reasons.

You can tell if your spruce is dying if it has symptoms like drying and dying of the new and emerging shoots and the needles turning yellow and brown and finally falling off.

This can be accelerated by environmental factors such as poor soil, harsh climatic conditions, and lack of water. Despite all that, you can still save your blue spruce from dying by identifying what is ailing the tree and treating it.

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