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Why is My Arborvitae Turning Brown and How to Solve It?

Dr Ahsanur Rahman, PHD

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Arborvitae Are Turning Brown
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Arborvitae may turn brown due to insufficient watering, pests like spider mites, diseases such as blight, harsh winter conditions, improper pruning, compacted soil, root damage, nutrient deficiencies, fungal infections, or air pollution. Identifying the specific issue is crucial for effective remediation.

6 Ways to Identify the specific issue for arborvitae turning brown:

  1. Inspect Foliage: Check for discoloration, spots, or irregular patterns.
  2. Soil Analysis: Assess moisture, drainage, and nutrient levels.
  3. Pest Examination: Look for pests or webs on the tree.
  4. Climate Consideration: Evaluate exposure to extreme temperatures.
  5. Root Inspection: Check for damage or rot.
  6. Consult Experts: Seek advice from local arborists or extension services.

To address Arborvitae turning brown, first, identify the cause—whether it’s watering issues, pests, diseases, or environmental stress. Adjust watering practices, treat for pests or diseases, and improve soil conditions if necessary. Prune damaged areas, but avoid excessive trimming.

Provide adequate mulching and consider fertilization. Seek guidance from local horticulturists or extension services for specific remedies based on your region and the identified problem. Regular monitoring and timely interventions will help restore the health of your Arborvitae.

Microbiota decussata (Siberian Native) 2019 photo

Understanding The Causes Of Arborvitae Browning

Do you have beautiful arborvitae hedges in your garden, but suddenly notice that they are turning brown? If yes, then don’t panic because there are various reasons behind it. In this section, we’ll discuss the common diseases and pests that lead to browning, along with the environmental factors that can cause arborvitae to turn brown.

Common Diseases And Pests That Lead To Browning

Arborvitae can suffer from different diseases and pests. Below are some of the most common ones:

  • Bagworms: These pests can cause severe damage to arborvitae, especially when they are not detected timely. They spin protective bags around themselves, and if they are left unchecked, they can lead to complete defoliation of the plant.
  • Spider mites: These tiny pests feed on the undersides of leaves and can cause noticeable discoloration and browning of the leaves.
  • Canker diseases: These diseases can infect the stem and cause brown patches on the leaves. It’s important to remove the affected foliage and prune the plant to prevent spreading of the disease.

Environmental Factors That Can Cause Arborvitae To Turn Brown

Apart from pests and diseases, several environmental factors can impact the health of your arborvitae. Here are some of them:

  • Water stress: Underwatering or overwatering can cause arborvitae foliage to turn brown. Make sure the soil is well-drained and watered sufficiently.
  • Winter injury: Sometimes, arborvitae foliage turns brown due to winter injury, where the foliage gets dried out due to harsh winter weather. You can prevent this by using an anti-desiccant spray.
  • Soil pH: If the pH level of the soil is too high or too low, arborvitae can suffer from nutrient deficiencies and turn brown. Make sure to test the soil pH and amend it.

Understanding the causes of arborvitae browning is just the first step toward preventing it. Regular inspection, maintenance, and care can go a long way in keeping your arborvitae healthy and beautiful.

Isola Bella - Lake Maggiore - views from the Borromeo Palace - gardens - part of the Teatro Massimo

Watering Techniques To Keep Your Arborvitae Healthy

Arborvitae, also known as white cedar, is a popular evergreen tree. It’s prized for its stunning foliage and its ability to provide a natural screen and privacy to gardens and yards. However, this tree is susceptible to turning brown, causing worry and stress for plant lovers.

We will focus on the watering techniques that can help keep your arborvitae healthy.

Deep Watering Vs. Light Watering

When it comes to watering your arborvitae, the method of watering is critical to its overall health. Deep watering and light watering are two methods that you can use to keep your arborvitae healthy.

Deep Watering

Deep watering is essential for the roots to grow healthy and strong. The process involves slowly and thoroughly watering the root zone of the arborvitae, allowing the water to penetrate deep into the soil. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Water the tree slowly and deeply at least once per week.
  • Ensure the water reaches at least 6 inches deep into the soil.
  • Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to ensure deep watering.

Light Watering

Light watering is a process that involves watering the top layer of the soil around the tree. The method is suitable for newly planted trees. However, it’s not the best option for mature arborvitae. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Water the tree in the early morning or evening to avoid water evaporation.
  • Water the tree every other day for the first two weeks after planting.
  • Use a spray nozzle to water the top layer of the soil lightly.

When To Water

The timing of watering your arborvitae is critical to its growth and overall health. It’s always best to water your arborvitae early in the morning to maximize water absorption and reduce water loss through evaporation. Avoid watering the tree during the hottest part of the day, especially during summer.

Watering during this time can lead to fungal disease development.

How Much To Water

Overwatering and underwatering can both have adverse effects on your arborvitae. So, how much water does your tree need? The answer to this question is; it depends on the age and size of your tree. Use these guidelines to determine how much water your tree needs:

  • Newly planted trees require 1-2 inches of water each week.
  • During hot weather, increase the amount of water to 3-4 inches each week.
  • Mature trees require 1 inch of water per week.
  • For every inch of rain received during a week, reduce the amount of water you provide the tree by 1/3 inch.

Keeping your arborvitae healthy doesn’t have to be a complicated process. By using these watering techniques, you can help your tree grow healthy and strong. Remember to monitor your tree regularly for signs of browning, as this could indicate a more severe problem.

Thuja occidentalis 'Wansdyke Silver' (¿origin) 2019 photo

Choosing The Right Location For Your Arborvitae

Arborvitae are turning brown: Choosing the right location for your arborvitae

Arborvitae are a popular choice for homeowners who want to add some privacy and greenery to their property. However, if your arborvitae are turning brown, it could be a sign that they are not in the best location. In this section, we’ll explore some key considerations to help you choose the right location for your arborvitae.

Soil Quality And Drainage Considerations

One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a location for your arborvitae is the quality of the soil and the drainage. Some important points to keep in mind are:

  • Arborvitae need well-draining soil to prevent root rot. If your soil is heavy and clay-like, you might want to consider planting your arborvitae in raised beds or mounds.
  • Look for a location that has good soil fertility. Arborvitae prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.5.
  • Avoid locations that are prone to flooding or standing water as this can be deadly for arborvitae.

Sunlight Requirements

Arborvitae thrive in full sun to partial shade, but different cultivars have different sunlight requirements. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you are planting arborvitae as a hedge, make sure that the location gets at least four hours of direct sunlight each day.
  • If you are planting individual arborvitae, choose a location that gets full sun in the morning and partial shade in the afternoon.
  • Avoid planting arborvitae in areas that are fully shaded or receive less than four hours of direct sunlight each day.

Proper Spacing Of Arborvitae Plants

Spacing is another critical factor to consider when choosing the right location for your arborvitae. Some key points to remember include:

  • Proper spacing will help ensure that your arborvitae grow to their full potential and don’t compete with each other for resources.
  • When planting arborvitae as a hedge, space them 3 to 4 feet apart for shorter cultivars and up to 8 feet apart for taller cultivars.
  • When planting individual arborvitae, allow at least 6 feet of space between them to ensure proper growth.

By considering soil quality, sunlight requirements, and proper spacing, you can help ensure that your arborvitae stay healthy and vibrant. Keep these key factors in mind when choosing the location for your arborvitae and you’ll be sure to enjoy a thriving green screen for years to come.

Emerald Green Arborvitae with Liriope

Treating And Preventing Pests And Diseases

Arborvitae trees are known for their beautiful green foliage that adds a great charm to any garden. But when they start turning brown, it can be alarming. In many cases, it can be caused by pests and diseases. In this section, we will look at some common pests and diseases that affect arborvitae trees and how to treat and prevent them.

Common Pests And Diseases For Arborvitae

Arborvitae trees are vulnerable to a variety of pests and diseases, some of the most common ones include:

  • Bagworms: These pests build bag-like structures on the trees and can cause severe damage if left untreated.
  • Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause leaves to discolor and fall off over time.
  • Scale insects: They suck plant sap and can cause yellowing leaves and branch dieback.
  • Cedar rust: This fungal disease can cause brown spots on the leaves and stunted growth.

Natural Remedies For Pest And Disease Prevention

Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to pest and disease management. Here are some natural remedies that can help prevent pests and diseases in arborvitae trees:

  • Keep the area around the tree clean and free of debris to prevent pests from finding shelter.
  • Plant companion plants like lavender, marigold, or chrysanthemum near your arborvitae trees as they can repel pests naturally.
  • Use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to control pests, but always follow the instructions carefully.
  • Spray a solution of baking soda and water on the trees to control fungal diseases like cedar rust.

Chemical Treatments For Severe Infestations

If the infestation is severe, you may need to resort to chemical treatments. Here are some chemical treatments that can help:

  • Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt): It is a natural bacterial pesticide and can control bagworms effectively.
  • Insecticides containing permethrin or malathion can help control spider mites and scale insects.
  • Fungicides containing chlorothalonil or copper can help control fungal diseases like cedar rust.

Regular inspection of your arborvitae trees is essential to detect any pest or disease infestations early. Natural remedies are always preferred, but if the infestation is severe, chemical treatments may be necessary. Remember to follow the instructions carefully when using any chemical treatment.

Thuja occidentalis 'DeGroot's Spire'

Pruning And Maintaining Healthy Foliage

Arborvitae, also known as the ‘tree of life,’ are one of the most popular ornamental plants among garden enthusiasts. They add beauty to the yard and provide natural privacy screens between properties. However, browning of arborvitae leaves is a cause of concern for many gardeners.

In this blog, we will discuss pruning and maintaining healthy foliage for your arborvitae.

Tools Needed For Pruning

Before starting pruning, make sure you have the necessary tools. The proper equipment will make the pruning task more comfortable, quicker, and more effective. Here are some tools you’ll need:

  • Sharp pruning shears: Choose a sharp, clean, and sharpened tool to avoid damaging the plant.
  • Lopper: Use loppers for cutting branches with a diameter greater than ¾ inch.
  • Pruning saw: Use a pruning saw for cutting branches that are more than 1.5 inches in diameter, don’t use it for small twigs.
  • Protective gear: Protect yourself with gloves and goggles.

Best Time For Pruning

Timing is important when it comes to pruning arborvitae. Prune your plant at the wrong time, and you can severely damage your shrub. To prevent this from happening, you should prune your arborvitae at the right time of year. Here are the best times to prune arborvitae:

  • Spring: Prune in early spring before the new growth starts.
  • Summer: Light pruning of foliage or shearing can be done in summer if your plant has grown more than expected.
  • Fall: If you need to prune for structural purposes, do it in late fall.

Tips For Maintaining Healthy Foliage

Maintaining healthy foliage requires some effort and knowledge. Follow these tips to keep your arborvitae healthy:

  • Watering: Water your plant deeply once a week, especially during hot and dry weather.
  • Fertilizing: Fertilize your plant annually in early spring to promote healthy growth.
  • Sunlight: Arborvitae needs full sun, so make sure it gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Pest control: Check frequently for insects, especially for spider mite infestations.
  • Thinning: Thin your plant regularly to encourage even growth.

Pruning and maintaining the healthy foliage of arborvitae is essential for the growth and longevity of your plant. By using the right tools at the right time of year and following the tips mentioned above, your arborvitae will remain healthy and beautiful for years to come.

Thuja occidentalis 'Spiralis'

Identifying Early Signs Of Browning In Your Arborvitae

Arborvitae Are Turning Brown

Arborvitae, also known as white cedar, are popular evergreen shrubs and trees in North America. These plants are well-known for their beautiful foliage, which adds color and texture to any landscape. However, brown foliage can be alarming for homeowners with arborvitae in their gardens.

In this blog post, we aim to explain the early signs of browning in your arborvitae and how to identify and fix them.

Yellowing/Bronzing Of Foliage

Yellowing or bronzing of arborvitae foliage is an early sign of trouble. There are a few reasons why this may occur; some being:

  • Overwatering the plants can cause the roots to rot, and the tree will lose its ability to absorb nutrients properly.
  • Pests like spider mites, mites, and bagworms can disfigure the shrub, causing the foliage to turn yellow or bronze.
  • The shrub is battling drought-like conditions and needs more water.

If yellowing or bronzing foliage is noticed, prune any affected branches or thirsty areas if it’s due to drought. Make sure to water the shrubs at the base of the plant. Further damage can be prevented by using an insecticide spray or miticide, depending on the presence of pests or mites.

Wilting Or Drooping Branches

Wilting or drooping of arborvitae branches indicates that the shrub is beginning to wilt from drought or has experienced too much water, which may cause root rot. Wilting also might be due to pests or diseases. It is important to identify the issue and take the necessary measures to fix the problems that arborvitae plants can’t recover from.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Inspect the soil regularly and track the plant’s need for water in a diary.
  • Make sure water is flowing into the soil rather than running off.
  • Remove any wilted or drooping limbs and dispose of them in the trash.
  • Inspect the plant often to prevent pests.

Brown Or Black Patches On Foliage

The appearance of brown or black patches on arborvitae foliage could indicate an array of problems:

  • If there is only a small area of dead tissue, the leaf might have experienced sunburn, windburn, or cold injury.
  • A more significant part of the branch is dead when the arborvitae appear to have patches of dead tissue in multiple areas.
  • Another cause is fungus damage, which is visible in the form of black spots and blights on the foliage.

If there are only a few such patches, carefully prune the affected areas and avoid watering the foliage while using a fungicide treatment. If the whole shrub is suffering from this issue, use a fungicide sparingly or call in local professionals for help.

If caught early enough, many issues related to the browning of arborvitae can be solved by identifying the problem and taking proactive measures. Remember to prune dead tissue, keep an eye out for pests, stick to an appropriate watering schedule, and care for your arborvitae, so your shrubs and trees can remain healthy and thrive.

Tips For Preventing Arborvitae Browning

Arborvitae are popular among homeowners and landscapers for their beauty and practicality. They’re great for privacy screens, noise reduction, and adding an earthy touch to the landscape. However, many people face the issue of their arborvitae turning brown, which can be caused by a variety of factors.

In this post, we’ll discuss tips for preventing arborvitae browning.

Proper Watering Techniques

Proper watering helps maintain the health and vigor of arborvitae. Below are some tips for watering your arborvitae:

  • Water the plants deeply and slowly to ensure penetration to the root zone.
  • Water regularly, especially during hot and dry weather.
  • Make sure to give the plants enough water without over-watering them, which can lead to root rot.

Choosing The Right Location For Your Arborvitae

Location is a key factor in preventing arborvitae browning. Consider the following when deciding where to plant your arborvitae:

  • Arborvitae require full to partial sunlight and well-drained soil.
  • Avoid planting arborvitae in areas with high wind exposure or where the soil is soggy or poorly drained.
  • Make sure the plants don’t get too much shade, as this can lead to poor growth and browning of the foliage.

Pruning And Maintaining Healthy Foliage

Pruning is essential for maintaining healthy foliage and preventing arborvitae browning. Follow these tips for pruning:

  • Dead or diseased branches should be pruned away as soon as possible to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Prune the lower branches to keep the plant looking neat and tidy.
  • Avoid pruning too much at one time, as this may shock the plant and lead to browning of the foliage.

Treating And Preventing Pests And Diseases

Pests and diseases are common factors that can lead to arborvitae browning. Here are some tips on treating and preventing them:

  • Keep your arborvitae healthy through proper watering and pruning techniques.
  • Use pesticides or natural remedies like neem oil to protect the plants against pests like spider mites and bagworms.
  • Take steps to prevent diseases like root rot, which can lead to browning of the foliage.

By following the above tips, you can prevent arborvitae browning and maintain healthy, beautiful plants in your landscape. Remember, proper location, watering, pruning, and disease prevention are key factors in keeping your arborvitae healthy and thriving.

Árvore-da-vida-do-oriente; Biota-da-China; Tuia-da-China // Oriental Arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis)

Frequently Asked Questions On Arborvitae Are Turning Brown

Why Are My Arborvitae Turning Brown?

Arborvitae can turn brown due to several reasons like improper watering, pest or disease infestation, and environmental stress.

What Causes Brown Patches On Arborvitae?

Brown patches on arborvitae are commonly caused by fungal infections, insect infestations, or drought. Ensure proper watering, and consult a professional arborist to address the issue.

How Do I Fix My Brown Arborvitae?

Trimming off affected branches, treating the tree with fungicides, and irrigating the tree properly can help fix your brown arborvitae. Seek professional help if the problem persists.

Can Brown Arborvitae Recover?

Yes, brown arborvitae can recover if the problem is identified early and treated properly through trimming, watering, and application of fungicides. Consult with a professional arborist and provide proper care.

How Often Should Arborvitae Be Watered?

Water arborvitae deep, instead of frequently. Established trees may survive on rainfall, while young trees might need to be watered once or twice a week. Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot and canker.


As much as we love our arborvitae, seeing them turn brown can be disheartening. However, with proper care and maintenance, your arborvitae can be saved. Start by identifying the cause of the browning – it could be due to overwatering, pests, or environmental stressors.

Once you know the root of the problem, take the necessary steps to correct it. Trim away any dead or damaged foliage and consider using pesticides or fertilizers. Remember to water your arborvitae properly and monitor their growth regularly. With patience and diligence, your arborvitae can be restored to its former glory.

Don’t give up on your beloved plants – they’re worth the effort! Keep these tips in mind, and your arborvitae will thrive for years to come.

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