Why is my evergreen turning brown? Common causes and solutions

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Written By Sharline

Sharline is an expert on Chinese export trade. With 10 years of experience in the field of sourcing in China, she is familiar with all relevant regulations and laws about China's exporting. She loves to share her experiences with people and has written many helpful articles.

Evergreens are known for their lush, green foliage that stays vibrant year-round. So, when you notice that your evergreen is turning brown, it can cause concern. There are several reasons why this might be happening, and it’s essential to identify the cause to save your tree.

Environmental Stress

Environmental stress occurs when an evergreen is exposed to unfavorable conditions that can cause damage to the plant’s foliage. Some of the most common environmental stressors that can cause an evergreen to turn brown include extreme temperatures, drought, and strong winds.

Extreme Temperatures

Evergreens are typically cold-hardy and can survive in freezing temperatures. However, when the temperature drops too low, the leaves can suffer damage and turn brown. This damage is often seen in newly planted evergreens, where the roots have not had time to establish themselves, and the plant has yet to acclimate to the environment.


Evergreens require consistent moisture to keep their foliage lush and green. When they do not receive enough water, the leaves can turn brown due to drought stress. This is because the lack of water limits the plant’s ability to produce chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for giving the leaves their green color.

Strong Winds

Strong winds can also cause environmental stress on evergreens, particularly those planted in exposed locations. The wind can dry out the leaves, causing them to turn brown. Additionally, if the wind is strong enough, it can break branches, further damaging the plant.

To prevent environmental stress on your evergreens, plant them in a location appropriate for their specific needs. Choose a location protected from strong winds and receives the right amount of sun and water. Additionally, ensure consistent and adequate watering, especially during dry periods.

If you notice brown leaves on your evergreen due to environmental stress, it is essential to prune the affected branches to prevent further damage. Additionally, consider fertilizing your evergreen to help it recover from the stress. A balanced fertilizer can help provide the nutrients necessary for your evergreen to produce new growth and recover from damage.

Lack of Water

To address the issue of a lack of water, ensuring that your evergreen receives sufficient moisture is vital. Here are some tips to help you prevent and remedy the problem:

Water deeply and infrequently: When watering your evergreen, provide a deep watering rather than frequent shallow watering. This encourages the roots to grow deeper into the soil, making the plant more resilient to drought conditions.

Monitor soil moisture: Check the soil’s moisture level regularly by inserting your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If it feels dry at that depth, it’s time to water. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot and other issues.

Mulch around the base: Apply a layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or bark, around the evergreen base. Mulch helps retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation and regulating soil temperature.

Water during dry spells: Supplement natural rainfall by watering your evergreen during drought or dry weather. Pay attention to signs of wilting or browning foliage, as these indicate that the plant needs water.

Improve soil drainage: Ensure the soil around the evergreen has proper drainage to prevent waterlogging. Excess water can lead to root rot and other fungal diseases, which can further contribute to the browning of the foliage.

Winter Burn

Another common cause of evergreens turning brown is winter burn. This occurs when the tree’s needles lose moisture during winter, causing them to dry out and turn brown. 

So how can you prevent winter burn in your evergreens? The most crucial step is ensuring that your trees are well-watered in winter. This means providing them with deep watering in the fall, particularly during dry periods. Additionally, consider mulching around the tree’s base to help retain moisture in the soil. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters, consider wrapping the tree in burlap or another protective covering to help shield it from the wind and sun.

Another way to prevent winter burn is to select evergreen varieties better adapted to your climate. Certain species of evergreens are more tolerant of cold and dry conditions, while others may be more susceptible to winter burn. Consult with a local nursery or arborist to determine which evergreen varieties are best suited to your area.

If you’ve already noticed winter burn on your evergreen, don’t panic. In most cases, the tree will recover independently once spring arrives and new growth begins. However, it’s crucial to continue providing the tree with adequate water and care to help it recover. If the winter burn is severe, you may need to prune away the dead or damaged branches to help the tree recover more quickly.

Pests and Disease

To address pest infestations, it’s crucial to identify the specific pest and employ the appropriate control measures. This may include using insecticidal soaps or oils, introducing beneficial insects, or physically removing the pests by hand. Regularly inspecting your evergreens and taking prompt action at the first sign of infestation can help prevent extensive damage.

When it comes to diseases, prevention is vital. Proper cultural practices, such as planting in well-drained soil and providing adequate spacing between trees to promote good air circulation, can help prevent the development and spread of diseases. Avoid overwatering and ensure the soil is not waterlogged, as excessive moisture can create a favorable environment for fungal growth.

In cases where a disease is already present, taking appropriate measures to manage and control it is crucial. This may involve pruning and removing infected branches, applying fungicides as a professional recommends, and improving overall tree health through proper watering, fertilization, and maintenance.

Regularly monitoring your evergreens for signs of pests and diseases, and taking proactive measures to address these issues, will help keep your trees healthy and vibrant. Consulting with a local arborist or horticulturist can provide valuable guidance on identifying and managing specific pests and diseases affecting your evergreens.

Root Damage

To address root damage and prevent further browning of the evergreen tree, it’s essential to take appropriate measures. First, assess the extent of the root damage. If the root system is severely compromised, consulting with a professional arborist may be necessary to determine the best action.

Implementing proper watering practices is crucial to help damaged roots recover. Ensure the tree receives adequate moisture, but avoid overwatering, which can contribute to root rot and further damage. Mulching around the tree’s base can help conserve moisture and protect the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations.

Root pruning may sometimes be necessary to remove damaged or diseased roots. However, this should be done cautiously and with the guidance of a professional to avoid further harm to the tree.

Promoting overall tree health through regular fertilization, proper pruning, and maintenance practices is essential in supporting root recovery and preventing future damage. Providing a balanced fertilizer formulated explicitly for evergreen trees can help replenish essential nutrients and support root growth.

It’s important to note that root damage may not be immediately reversible, and it can take time for the tree to recover and show signs of improvement. Patience and ongoing care are essential in the rehabilitation process.

The end

In conclusion, brown evergreens can be distressing, but identifying the cause is the first step in finding a solution. Some common reasons for evergreen browning include environmental stress, lack of water, winter burn, pests and disease, and root damage. Prompt action can help prevent further damage and restore your evergreen’s vibrancy. If you need help with the cause or how to treat the issue, consult a professional landscaper or arborist for guidance.