Arborvitae turning brown

What is arborvitae?

Arborvitae is an evergreen tree or shrub from the gene of Thuja, belonging to the conifers family. They are usually pyramidal. If you are looking for the best trees to make a privacy hedge or decorative fence on your lawn, this would be the best tree you should go for.

Arborvitae turning brown

Your Arborvitae turning brown because of may be on of the below reasons

  • Weather conditions.
  • Tree transplant.
  • Environmental behavior.
  • Fungal diseases.
  • Seasonal needle drop.
  • Pests.
  • Animal encounter.
  • Drought.


Arborvitae belongs to North America and eastern Asia. When they were first brought by French explorers to Paris in 1536, they became an asset. Then later in 1558, the tree was given the name “Arborvitae” which means tree life. and the reason behind that name was that this tree is evergreen. Wood from these trees was initially used to set the fire because it was soft. But eventually, people got to know more uses of the tree.

Arborvitaes are fast-growing trees. If you want a lush green garden, with a huge fence, plant arborvitaes in your lawn in a row with little distance. And voila, in just 2 or 3 years you will have an eye-catching giant fence securing your house with a beautiful green wall, along with increasing your privacy. And this is not the only purpose of arborvitae.


Along with designing your lawn in a formal or semi-formal way, arborvitae’s bark, branches, and tree oil, all have several uses.

Arborvitae’s woods are now being used to make poles, cross ties, while in North America, the oriental Arborvitae is still used in landscaping and tea tree oil from Arborvitae has been used for medicinal purposes for ages.


Arborvitae is very fast growers, most of their species grow 3 to 4 feet per year. Depending on the different species of the tree, arborvitae has many different shapes starting from conical, pyramidal, and rounded. Arborvitae can grow up to 3 feet tall minimum and up to 70 feet maximum, in length and 25 feet in width, depending on the species and cultivar of the tree.

Both male and female arborvitae has a little different appearance like male cones are rounded, reddish, or yellowish whereas female cones are very small and green or tinted purple.

What is the reason behind arborvitae turning brown?

Arborvitae trees are evergreen trees. They can be used to make a barrier around your house, keeping an extra intimacy from your neighbors, or it could make a fence in front of your house. Or else, it could simply be used to increase the beauty of your backyard.

But if you are planting arborvitae trees anywhere near you, you should know that it’s alarming when they start turning brown and you have to take quick measures if you want to prevent your arborvitae from turning brown or save it for the next time.

Sometimes the cause behind arborvitae turning brown is simply “Winter burn”. There might be a disease as well, but most of the time, according to the research, there might be some problem in an environment that can be stressful for arborvitae trees, which can cause your adorable fence of arborvitae to turn brown.

Commonly, when your arborvitae trees start turning brown in summer, the reason will be drought. When they start turning brown in winter the reason could be less availability of water, a combination of sun, wind, and snow, which doesn’t let the arborvitae draw enough water from root to the whole tree.

Arborvitae’s lifeblood is water. So when there is a shortage of water, they start turning brown. Even if it’s summer, winter, or spring.

Arborvitae is known as evergreen trees, so they stay with your evergreen families with their evergreen leaves. The problem occurs when these evergreen leaves start turning brown or show some brown spots over some leaves. This might worry you but hold on and take a breath. This doesn’t mean that you have to remove all your arborvitae trees. And it doesn’t mean at all that you can or should never plant arborvitae again. If you notice the brown spots on your favorite shrub sooner, there might be a need to remove your arborvitae. Famous tree companies usually have solutions to the problem that is causing arborvitae to turn brown. They may be able to save your tree if you call them sooner.

Let’s have a look at different reasons for arborvitae turning brown.

  1. Weather conditions:

Intense and extreme weather conditions could make your arborvitae turn brown. Not only the heat or dry weather could be a reason behind your arborvitae turning brown, but it could also be extreme summer, extreme winter, intense winds, or cold temperature. In summers, they turn brown due to dry and hot weather as they need a lot of water to stay lush. When it’s cold and the temperature drops down to zero, then the roots might get frozen as well. In that situation, roots are not able to produce energy and provide it to the rest of the tree as well. Though the top of the tree is still producing energy that is not enough for arborvitae to stay evergreen. But when it comes to weather conditions, preventing your arborvitae is in your hands.

  • Tree transplant:

Replanting the tree could be another reason. These trees are so fragile that they couldn’t bear the changing atmosphere if it is not exactly like the previous one. When they are dug up and replanted at a new place, they get stressed out, sometimes the reason is digging them too deep that roots suffocate and leaves start dying, and sometimes the reason is not digging deep enough that roots are exposed to the sun and your arborvitae starts turning brown. So it is important to provide them with the same atmosphere and dig them at the same level they were at the previous place.

  • Environmental behavior:

Sometimes the reason for arborvitae turning down could be different environmental behaviors. Like, it didn’t rain for several weeks last summer so roots got dried out. Or maybe it rained so much last season that it’s too much moisture for arborvitae trees. Sometimes the soil kind could be a problem like a soil formed of heavy clay. Or there could be a high pH level or low pH level of soil, behind the arborvitae turning brown.

  • Fungal diseases:

Though the arborvitae trees are known as easy to care trees still they are susceptible to some fungal diseases including:

Phomopsis twig blight: this disease can also occur along with kabatina twig blight. It usually attacks the immature branches of trees. And a yellow spot appears at first which turns light green and ends up turning arborvitae brown.

Kabatina twig blight: this disease kills the cones of one-year-old branches. When the dead tissue meets the living one, a fungal spot appears which looks like a pimple.

Cercospora leaf blight: this disease could harm oriental arborvitae and not the North American ones. This disease attacks the lower branches near the tree trunk first, and then, if not cured, keep going upwards and only some top branches stay alive and green.

  • Seasonal needle drop:

Seasonal needle drop is a usual and natural process. It is not much to be worried about. As it occurs according to the natural process. Arborvitae trees are conifers but they don’t drop their needles every year, like other trees. But they shed their whole bunch of old branches every few years and grow new ones, like other evergreen trees. And sometimes those branches may stay on the tree after turning brown before they shed. It is not a problem. It’s habitual.

  • Pests and solutions:

Pests problems are always there, wherever you go for gardening or planting anything. Though arborvitae trees have rare cases of pest problems there still are some bugs that could affect your arborvitae. Some of those serious bug problems are:

Leaf miners: after their larvae are hatched, they start eating leaves, leaving the cones hollow from inside. They usually prefer pyramidal, globe, and golden varieties of arborvitae.

Bagworms: they are spindle-shaped and very hard to recognize in dense, evergreen leaves of arborvitae.

Spider Mites: spider mites are extremely dangerous and destructive. They start sucking sap off the leaves and trees start turning brown very soon. They are usually black, red, or brown and are of just pepper grain size.

  • Animal encounter:

Sometimes animal encounters could be the reasons behind arborvitae turning brown. Animals rubbing the trunk of arborvitae trees or eating low-lying branches could make the tree lose all nutrients and get dehydrated and start turning brown after not getting sufficient nutrients.

  • Drought:

Drought is the common and big reason behind arborvitae turning brown. The exposure of trees to extreme sunlight and not getting enough water makes them suffer. Arborvitae gets dried out very soon and easily. Extremely dry weather could cause dry soil which makes the tree turn brown.

How to prevent your arborvitae from turning brown?

Arborvitae trees are easy-to-care trees. They don’t usually ask for a lot of care and don’t let you go through a lot of trouble. But after all, some reasons could make your beautiful arborvitae trees turn brown. Most of those reasons could be prevented before they cause any harm. Like weather conditions, there are safety measures that you could use before the summer or winter season. You can take some precautionary steps to save your arborvitae trees from turning brown. Let’s have a look at them:

1.       Garden mulch over the root zone

Garden mulch can prevent your arborvitae roots from drying out. It helps contain the moisture in the soil and helps arborvitae roots to stay hydrated. It also saves your tree from winter burn as winter causes moisture issues that make arborvitae turn brown.

2.       Water your arborvitae when the ground thaws

When the winter comes, you might start worrying about everything including pets, kids, and plants as well. So it’s time that you keep a closer eye towards your arborvitae and whenever the ground thaws during winter when the day is heated up and it causes the meltdown of snow, you should water your arborvitae in gaps like those, and it will keep your arborvitae hydrate and prevented from turning brown.

3.       Wrap your tree in burlap:

Before winter starts, wrap your tree in burlap. It’s one of the best solutions to keep your tree safe from winter burn. Burlap is a common, thick, and cheap fabric that is easily available in the market. So before even winter starts, take a huge piece of burlap and start wrapping your arborvitae from bottom to top. Once you are done with that, go over with twine from top to bottom, to make sure your burlap won’t go off. This is the best prevention for your arborvitae from winter burn, it will keep your tree from frying out due to the unavailability of water during winters.

4.       Prevent fungal disease:

Prevent your trees from fungal disease by keeping a closer eye on the damage. Keep watering and regularly fertilizing your tree so they don’t get caught with pests. Be careful when you are cutting grass around your arborvitae and make sure they don’t get hurt. As soon as you suspect a fungal disease, call a tree doctor ASAP and cure that disease before it causes your arborvitae to turn brown. Wounds in your arborvitae’s bark due to some animal encounter or lawn mowing could be an easy way for pathogens to enter the tree and destroy it.


Arborvitae trees are evergreen trees, best to plant in your yard for your evergreen families. They are usually best used as Christmas tree decorations and the Chinese also use them as their good luck charm ornament on a new year. But the problem occurs when arborvitae foliage starts turning brown or the evergreen leaves of arborvitae shrubs start showing brown spots. Why do these adorable, eye-catching, and evergreen trees start turning brown? And what can you do to prevent that from happening? Everything you need to know about the causes and prevention of your arborvitae trees is discussed in the article. We hope this guide will help you throughout. Have a good day!

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