Plant Health Alert – Browning Needles in Conifers

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browning needles in cypress treeBrowning needles in the interior of conifers is a natural part of the tree getting larger and older. 

Conifers such as pine, cypress, cedar and arborvitae start out as young Christmas tree shaped plants. These young evergreen trees have limbs all the way to the ground. They have needles extending into the interior of the plant.

As the plant gets larger, upper limbs begin to shade lower limbs. The interior of the plant gets shady. Since the only reason for a needle to exist is to gather sunlight, the plant stops supplying the needles in the shade with nutrients and water and the needles turn brown.

Also, in the case of Murray or Leyland cypress, these plants grow so fast that they can rapidly outgrow their soil space and run out of nutrients. A plant will take nutrients from older less productive leaves and move the nutrients to the outer newer more productive needles. If the plants get dry, they will favor the outer needles over the inner needles.
With all that being said, you should avoid planting these trees too close together. Plant Leyland and Murray cypress at least 15 feet apart; 25 feet would be even better. Finally, make sure your conifers get full sun all day and plenty of water and fertilizer. 
Leyland cypress with brown needles inside