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Cedar Tree Problems

A Cedar Tree is very popular in many geographic locations around the world. The family has many different varieties. The tallest specimen can mature at 40 - 50 feet (14 - 17 meters).

Slender Brodie and Burk Eastern Red Cedars in Containers
Close Up Of Cedar Tree

There have been readers interested in this plant family. Many of you have written in about problems such as branches getting brittle and leaves turning brown.

As we know, not only new plant specimens but established trees and shrubs can go into shock. They can have their leaves turn yellow or brown.

Below are some of your questions and my recommendations for you. Some of you have had the same problems. There are some basic steps for each of you to take.

Dying cedar trees, (Newport, Maine)

Hi, I live in Maine and have some cedar trees that were planted on an old truck entrance, were only hand dug, and are dying. What can I do to save them or is it a waste of time?

Hi Mike,

I am not sure how long ago you have planted them. You said they were hand dug. Was the soil prepared ahead of time? Did you add some organic mushroom compost to the holes before planting? Does the area get sun or shade, and how is your watering schedule?

I would recommend taking a small knife and scratch the surface of a branch on each tree. If the branch is green, the tree is still alive. If the branch is brown, the tree is under stress and may be in some sort of shock.

If the trees are in stress, there are a couple of things you can do. You can take one or two branches to your local nursery or garden center. Have them look at the branch and see if they can identify the problem.

You can also loosen the soil and add some mushroom compost to the soil. The mushroom compost is an organic fertilizer that will last up to one year. Make sure the trees are watered regularly.

I hope these suggestions help. Thanks again for asking the questions and let us know how you make out with your Cedar trees. Have a great day.

(Newport, Maine)
Hi, I live in Maine and have some cedar trees that were planted 3 years ago, had no watering schedule except natural rain, they were planted on an old truck entrance; so on gravel, they get full sun.

I don't know/think the ground was prepared first seeing as how they were hand dug, or if compost was added at time of planting. Is there anything I can/could do or is it a waste of time?

Hi to Newport, Maine again.

Thanks for posting again on your trees. The best thing to do if possible is to check out with a local nursery. Bring in a couple of branches and explain the situation.

If you can save them, you may have to get some fertilizer in the ground and nurse them back to health by incorporating a watering schedule. Let us know how you make out and thanks again for asking the question and for following up.

By: Donna, Jasper, GA

Shrub In Stress

As it turns out I believe the tree is a Cypress. I did what you recommended and I see no change. I don't know if it was to late to save or not. How long does it take before I will notice a change? How can I tell if it is dead? There is no more green on the tree.

Hi Donna,
Herbee here from Gardening With Herbee. I remember you asking the question on your dying Cedar in August. I am sorry to hear that your Cypress isn't doing any better.

Are the branches brittle? You said you couldn't find any green on the tree. Do the scratch test the surface of the trunk and a branch. If there is no green at all, the chances of the tree still being alive is truly in question.

As mentioned above, take a branch to your local garden center. They should be able to identify if the tree is dead. Let us know what you find out.

Our weather here in the southeastern United States has had many different trends in the past few years. Cedars, Cypress, and Cryptomeria can go in shock with no rain and turn brown throughout their interior.


By Lisa, Seattle Washington, USA

30 yr old Cedar has white patches on trunk and leaves are turning brown?
We have a cedar tree in our yard that my husband planted when he moved into our house. It was doing well until approx. 6 yrs ago.? The tree started to lose its leaves and turn brown. Lately I've noticed a creamy white "fungus" on the trunk of the tree. Something that was not present before. We live in north west WA. State, where it is very wet. Does this have any bearing on the problem?

We have let the tree survive on it's own for years without a problem. Now this? Don't know what we should do? Please help! The tree is very close to our home so are concerned of it falling in big winds, it sways a lot now? Thank you, Lisa

Hi Lisa,
White rot can be common among Cedar, Oak, and other trees. From your description, with your climate being wet, it could have formed from root rot. A white fungus will get into the trunk and eat away at the bark. Check the hardness of the bark around the base of tree.

Unfortunately, depending on how much fungus is on the base, the tree is definitely infected. My concern is you said it was close to your house. Your tree is 30 years old, and I would recommend a couple of things. You can take a picture and bring it into a local nursery. Have them evaluate how damaged the trunk is.

If the tree is not totally infected yet, there are fungicides available today you can purchase. I would personally get a local professional to evaluate the tree, for your own safety.

By Deb, British Columbia

Cedars drying out?
I think my cedars did not get enough water and are turning brown. If I water them will they come back? Any other info you can give me would be appreciated. Thanks

Hi Deb,
It sounds like they are in shock. There are two things you can do right now. Do the scratch test to see the color of the branch. I would recommend that you loosen the soil around each of the trees. Add some organic mushroom compost to each tree. You can also add a growth enhancer. You should be able to purchase both of these at a local nursery.

Once you have added the mushroom compost and growth enhancer, put some mulch or pine straw around each tree. This will help to retain the moisture in the ground. Put your hose on low and water each tree. Let the water soak in to all areas of the base of the tree. Do this for each tree. It will take some time, but this is the best way to ensure the root systems are getting water.

If you are in heat and dry weather right now, make sure you do this every other day (every two days) for up to ten days. You don't want to over-water them, but you want each tree to get back on track.

Here is some more information for you on trees going into shock.

By Kimberly Martaricksburg, Mississippi, USA

We moved into our house in February 2012 and there are two cedar trees in the front yard. The top half of the trees are brown one has a small amount of new growth in one section of the top but it is very small.

We live in Mississippi and the trees are in an area where they get all day sun. What can I do to save my trees. I love where they are located and I really don't have the money to replace them, but I do have the time to put in to save them. I don't know when the last time the tree was trimmed.

I took some pictures and will post them when I can access my desktop. The pictures are of all four sides. I am keeping a picture record of the trees so we can tell if we are helping it or hurting it more. Please Help?!

Hi, Herbee here.
I look forward to see some photos so can get a good visual from you.

Right off the bat, if the trees are still healthy, I would recommend topping off. I will wait to give you full recommendation when the pictures come in.

Darian Asks A Question

Our cedar tree is almost 20 years old or more. About two weeks ago I noticed its tip leaning. After a week now it is bending at the top about 1 meter. We are wondering what is happening to it, and what we can do about it? Thanks, Darian

Hi Darian,
From what you have described, it sounds like the tree needs to be topped off. Established trees, especially Cedars need to be pruned and topped off after so many years. Recommendation is to use a pole lopper if possible, and prune of the very top of the Cedar. If you can, also prune other top branches. The result will be your tree growing properly. The new growth has been stopped by the height of the Cedar.

If you are unable to reach the top of the tree, I would recommend to have a couple of landscapers come and look at the tree, and get a few estimates on cost. I do believe this will take care of the problem with the tree.

By Toni, British Columbia

We have a large Cedar hedge between us and our neighbour. She is very attached to this hedge, and over the past several years we have been parking our motor home on the north side of the hedge. This has killed it on our side. Is there anything we can do to bring this back to life? If we were to replace it, what should we do to keep this problem from happening again?

Hi Toni,
I am sorry to hear this hedge isn't doing well on your site of the property. One of the problems with any plant specimen, in order for the plant to maintain it's health, it has to have room to mature and grow evenly all the way around. What is happening is your specimen is being choked out by the motor home. Is this hedge a well established plant, or is it fairly new?

You have the option of pruning your side of the hedge way back. The problem with hedges, if they are established, they may become woody and there tends to not be many needle like leaves on the Cedar.

The other option if the Cedar is not growing properly and dying, is to replace the specimen, but it will have to be moved to a new location, away from where you park your motor home. If this is possible, maybe talk to your neighbor and suggest a new area for a new specimen. Help the neighbor decide a special place where he or she can view the plant. If this isn't feasible, if possible, move the motor home so a new specimen or the existing one (if it can be saved) will have room to grow.

By Debra, Lacey, Washington

Can our trees be saved?

We just had a winter storm in WA. Four of our cedar trees came down from the weight of the snow on the branches. We are trying to prop them up. We've had them a few years; they are about 20 ft. tall. Any ideas or suggestions? Will they survive?

Hi Debra,
Sorry to hear about them coming down. Many of my previous clients and also Tom and I have lost trees due to ice storms or thunderstorms here in the southeast.

Your main goal is to assess the root system. If the roots are still intact on some or all of the trees, they have a good chance of surviving. If the root systems are still in the ground, you will want to prune off any loose or dead branches. Stake your trees upright.

If the root systems are up, this will be a problem for the health of all the Cedars and most likely you will have to remove them. I hope this isn't the case.

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