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Fall needle drop is normal, here’s what to look for

There’s nothing like the verdant, lush green of an evergreen, and no one likes to have patchy evergreens with dead spots. Noticing brown spots on your evergreens can be a source of anxiety, as it may seem like your evergreens are damaged and sickly. Before you panic, it is important to notice the time of year of when these brown spots may occur, as all evergreens in northern climates (where Whispering Hills is located) undergo yearend needle drop.

As explained by our Garden Center Manager and Horticulturalist, Sean Ducey, “all evergreens in northern climates will lose their interior needles during fall, this is referred to as fall needle drop. Evergreens must drop a portion of their interior needles, usually the oldest needles, in order to have enough energy for next year’s new growth. This usually starts occurring mid fall but can start as early as summer depending on if the tree has gone through any stress during that growing season (i.e., newly transplanted or has gone through a drought).”

We had a drought this year, so needle drop may be more pronounced. As explained, this would especially be the case for newly planted evergreens. Again, this is normal. Try to take notice of the changes that are occurring with your evergreens over the course of the year’s seasons.

A normative fall needle drop will take on a golden brown color, then eventually fade to a darker, desaturated, brown as winter nears. Just because you notice a dark, desaturated, brown doesn’t mean that there is a problem. It may be that you just didn’t see the color of the tree fade over the season. This is why it’s best to try and observe your evergreens over the course of fall time, so you can detect what is normal and what may be a problem.

As long as the browning of your evergreen occurs from the interior, this should be considered to be fall needle drop, and normal for your evergreen to undergo. If you notice full branches turn brown quickly from the outside (not interior) in, then that is when you may have a problem.

Again, if you notice some browning, then you are likely noticing fall needle drop, which is completely normal for our climate. A period of drought is enough to trigger the plant to begin to drop needles early, so take that into account if you notice the process begin in summer. If you notice large swaths of you evergreen turning brown quickly, then that is when you may need to intervene. We are available to answer any questions that you may have about caring for your evergreens. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, you can call us at (847) 658-5610 or visit us (with photos of your evergreen) during business hours, and we’ll be able to help you out.

Whispering Hills Garden and Landscape Center is a full service landscape center and nursery located in Cary, Illinois. Stop in today for our full selection of evergreen trees and shrubs, now 50% off. (Updated: 10/15/21)

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