What to Do with a Sick Blue Spruce

What-to-Do-with-a-Sick-Blue-Spruce_01A number of area homeowners are scratching their heads over their blue spruce trees. According to Lyndsay Ploehn, Agriculture and Natural Resources Associate for Purdue Extension – Porter County, people are calling to ask why their trees are losing needles or branches are turning brown.

“There are a number of things that can make life hard for blue spruce,” Ploehn said. “The drought of 2012 was hard on most evergreens, but the damage didn’t show up right away as it did for perennial or annual plants.”

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, the Colorado blue spruce requires normal moisture and has only moderate tolerance to flooding and drought. When any plant is grown in less-than ideal conditions, it can become susceptible to insects and diseases that effect growth and aesthetic appeal.

The key symptom of spruce decline is branch dieback, which progresses over two to four years and renders the plant’s appearance unacceptable for most homeowners. The rapid decline of many spruce trees in the Midwest appears to be related to an increase of canker diseases coupled with other disease and insect problems that plague the species.

What-to-Do-with-a-Sick-Blue-Spruce_02Unfortunately, when most people call, the damage is so severe it is past the treatment stage, or the tree is so large that treatment isn’t recommended.

Purdue Extension encourages homeowners to call and ask questions, but the best way to have a tree diagnosed is through a site visit or by sending a sample to the Purdue University Plant and Pest Diagnostic lab.

“To make a correct diagnosis we need to know where the tree is losing needles, from the interior, from the bottom up or from the top down,” Ploehn said. “Homeowners can call us to collect a sample, which we would send to Purdue for testing.” There is no cost for a home visit, and it is $11 plus postage for the extension office to send the sample to Purdue.

For additional information contact Lyndsay Ploehn, Agriculture and Natural Resources Associate, at (219) 465-3555 or lploehn@purdue.edu