Browning Spruce Needles

I purchased a Randy Knight collected Engelmann Spruce tree last year and repotted it this spring. I’ve noticed over the last couple weeks that the new needles seem to be getting brown starting in the middle of the needle.

I’ve found that running my hand over some of the needles causes them to fall off. I’ve spoken with a friend in my area who suggested that it is probably a fungal issue and to spray it with lime sulfur once they harden off. I’m looking to get opinions on it since the new growth falling off is worrying me. (There is a good chance I could be over watering the tree as I’m still slightly new to this and am trying to fine tune watering.)

I would definitely watch the water. Randy’s trees are normally collected from fairly dry environments (at least part of the year) so they probably don’t like to be over watered.


That’s not a good sign if the needles fall off when you touch them. It sounds like a root related issue, probably related to the repot. A collected tree should sit for at least two years after collection to recover the root system, so hopefully it had been two years since Randy collected it when you did the repot. The tree may already be dead, or dying. At this point definitely watch the watering and don’t water until the soil is on the dry side. If the old needles remain green and attached it may still recover.

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Thank you for the insight. The needles dropping definitely didn’t seem good to me. Looks like the apex and some of the other new growth isn’t turning brown / dropping needles so fingers crossed it can pull through.

Is the browning and needle drop happening with the foliage over the entire tree? Or are there areas of the tree where the foliage is healthy and unaffected? I had a similar experience with a Dwarf Alberta Spruce, but localized to one area of the tree, and I’m almost certain it was a root health issue.

It seems that this is on some branches and not others. However it doesn’t seem to be affecting the entire branch if it is on it, some needles don’t have it at all.

I was told by a friend to try and spray some lime sulfur on it so I’m going to do so this weekend in case its a fungal issue. Could definitely be a root health issue though as this was repotted this year.