Fat Alberta Blue Spruce Tree – Dropped Needles

Italian stone pine - juvenile foliage and mature foliage

Q: I live in north Georgia and have a two-year-old Fat Albert blue spruce tree. In the last two months, it started looking sad and it has dropped almost all of its needles. Is there anything I can do to save it? 

A: Very few blue spruce trees live more than ten years in the Atlanta area. Summer heat during the day and especially at night eventually overcome the tree’s ability to grow fresh needles. High humidity exacerbates needle diseases. Poor drainage around the roots leads to root rot. I never recommend planting blue spruce in any form or fashion but if you are really sold on having one you must prepare an exquisite planting spot. Excavate ALL of the soil in an area eight feet in diameter and twelve inches deep. Discard two thirds of the soil. Thoroughly mix the remaining soil with bagged composted pine bark, gritty paver leveling sand, and a few bags of pea gravel. You should aim for a 1:1:1 ratio between the soil, the bark, and the inert materials. The planting spot should not be in a low spot that holds water after rain. If all goes well your spruce will last for several years. If not, the wood adds a nice scent to your fireplace. Consider planting instead an Arizona cypress, Cupressus arizonica. It grows just fine here.

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