Home generalSave brown conifers: they will turn green again

Save brown conifers: they will turn green again

  • Brown conifers
  • Rescue brown conifers
    • dryness
    • sunlight
    • nutrient deficiency
    • rot
    • fungal infections
    • Acid soil
    • salt

Brown conifers are never a good sign. If the conifers do not have a rich, green color, this indicates problems that could eventually cause the plants to wither. In the worst case, you lose whole hedges, which you have to replace with new specimens. That gnaws on the purse. However, you do not have to despair because you can save brown conifers.

Conifers in the garden are used for a variety of different projects, ranging from the individual position to the hedge. They inspire through their intense green, which shines even over the winter depending on the nature and thus act as a permanent visual protection or color aspect of the gloomy and snowy winter time.

The gardener's heart becomes heavy when the softwoods suddenly change their color to brown, because in this case, the plants are not doing well. It is now important to recognize the possible causes and how they are treated so that you can save brown conifers and thus preserve your garden variety.

Brown conifers

False alarm: Brown conifers in winter

First of all: Not all conifers are green over the winter. Some species take on a brownish tinge over the cold season, which simply belongs to the rhythm of the plant. This brown color may either be a continuous brown or brown red, or only a few spots may be discolored.

brown thuja

The winter color is completely safe, if your plants are not pale brown, so act sick. They should still have their typical character and the color should be full. The following conifers are typical of a brown winter color in different shades.

  • Occidental Tree of Life (bot. Thuja occidentalis)
  • Giant Tree of Life (bot. Thuja plicata)
  • Carpet Juniper (bot. Juniperus horizontalis)
  • Hedgehog juniper (bot. Juniperus rigida)

Thujen are known for their brown color, which can affect the whole plant. The reason for this is the origin of these species, as they have to endure intense cold winters, which means they need to save nutrients, which leads to browning over the winter. This is similar to the discoloration of leaves of deciduous trees in autumn. Juniper, in contrast to Thuja either a red or purple brown color, which is as worrying for many gardeners. Before taking any action, check if your taxa change color in winter.

brown room pine, Araucaria heterophylla

Tip: The Scots pine (bot. Pinus sylvestris) also turns over the winter, only this is not a shade of brown. This literally fades and turns yellow without the conifer being bad.

Rescue brown conifers

Rescue Brown Conifers: Recognizing and Treating 7 Causes

If you want to save brown conifers, you must know the individual causes and treat them accordingly, in order to be able to enjoy a rich green plant again. The true lush green growths from tree of life to cypresses (bot. Cupressus) to the classic fir (bot. Abies) can suffer from a variety of problems that lead to browning of the leaves.

Thuja discolored brown

Fortunately, for each of the causes, there are suitable solutions to help you restore brown conifers to health. Here are the 7 typical causes of brown conifers and how to counteract them.


Drought stress is a typical conifer problem, because the plants are quite thirsty . The site should always remain fresh, moist and well drained with very few exceptions, so that the plants can easily get enough water . Drought stress manifests itself not only in light to yellow-brown needles, but also their drying.

Causes are often dry, hot summers and long periods of frost in winter. It is not for nothing that the plants sometimes have to be supplied with water in winter.

You can use the following methods for treatment:

  • Carefully shorten the dried shoots
  • Do not cut too deeply into the old wood
  • Increase water additions
  • Do not cause waterlogging
  • water in the evening or better in the morning
  • this keeps moisture intact
  • It is best to pour the water directly onto the root disk
  • Dip pot conifers with root ball in water
  • Immerse until no more air bubbles rise
  • then drain off excess moisture

With these measures your conifers would have to recover. You can prevent moisture loss throughout the year if you allow a mulch layer at least five centimeters thick.

dried room fir, Araucaria heterophylla


Another big problem is sunburn . Rescue brown conifers is much harder in this case, as you need to take shady measures. This phenomenon happens in itself only after a pruning of the plants, since this often enough between June and July and even into the August, when it comes to species with a strong growth.

During this time, the sun shines directly on the freshly cut shoot tips, which then dry up and turn brown. Since the plant itself was weakened by the cut, the sun sets her particularly strong. Use one of the following aids to protect the conifers from sunburn in the first 10 days after the cut.

Plan the pruning well
  • parasols
  • shade nets

Likewise, it is recommended to choose a cloudy day for the cutting of your conifers. This significantly reduces the risk of sunburn of the shoot tips, which also prevents brown conifers.

nutrient deficiency

Nutrients are important for plants to perform their functions easily. A nutrient deficiency often causes brown needles that discolor over a longer period of time. For this reason, a lack of important nutrients is not immediately apparent as this process is creeping.

The symptoms look like this:

  • Shoot tips turn brown
  • Brown discoloration spreads on needles
  • assume a yellow-brown color
  • entire conifer turns yellowish brown

The cause of this is in most cases not a lack of fertilizer, but a wrong soil condition, which has a negative effect on the nutrient uptake of conifers. In itself, the plants need only a few nutrients, but compacted and lean soils provide a nutrient deficiency . In this case you should loosen the compacted soil and mix some sand under the soil.


However, if the soil is meager, you should incorporate mature compost, horn shavings or manure that is well seasoned. This gives the plants the necessary boost of nutrients. Generally it helps to enrich the earth with horn shavings and rock flour. If the nutrient deficiency is severe, you should use a conifer fertilizer after the soil has been adjusted. This ensures fast results.


Phytophthora cinnamomi spoilage of the trunk or roots is fatal for the conifers. If the fungus has taken root, needle discoloration in yellow-brown clay, which is only the slightest problem. Over time, the roots including the root neck are destroyed, which in turn leads to the discoloration of the needles. Thereafter, the plant enters irrevocably. Unfortunately, brown conifers can only save you if you notice Phytophthora cinnamomi early.

In addition, you should avoid waterlogging, which is one of the main causes of the fungus. Approved fungicides such as Aliette WG from Bayer Garten should be used if suspected late in the summer. If a specimen is infested you should definitely dig it up and keep it away from other conifers and plants. The fungus is extremely invasive.

fungal infections

Other fungal infections also cause conifers to turn brown . Unfortunately, these only help cut back the affected shoots to save the conifers. The following fungal infections can be mentioned here.


  • brown shoot tips
  • Coloring reaches into the leaf interior
  • Spots in black and brown are recognizable

Dandruff and tan

  • affects older plants
  • especially Thuja
  • Shoots in the lower area turn brown

Kabatina-twig blight

  • infects younger shoot tips
  • turn brown
Thuja, tree of life

Acid soil

A pH below 5.0 is detrimental to conifers, as shown in brown spots, some of which may even be black. In this case, there is too acidic soil, which you should absolutely confirm with a pH test. If the pH is in this range, you need to increase it to reach 5.5-6.5, which is ideal for the crops.

Apply lime in the appropriate quantities:

  • pH of 6.0 - 6.4: 150 - 180 g / m²
  • pH below 6.0: 250 g / m² (sandy soil), 500 g / m² (loamy soil)


Road salt over the winter can cause strong conifers and even kill them completely. The salt removes moisture from the soil, causing drought stress . In addition, organisms are destroyed that are involved in the formation of humus and thus nutrients in the soil. In addition to drought stress, the plants suffer from the de-icing salt due to a lack of nutrients, which is reflected in corresponding damage patterns up to the complete stagnation of the plants.


It is very important not to plant conifers too close to sidewalks and roads. Save brown conifers by watering well in winter and removing brown shoots in spring. Also rinse the softwood well with spring water.

Tip: Be sure not to dispose of accumulated material after a fungal infection or rot on the compost, but in the household waste. The spoilage and spores can spread easily in this way and quickly infect healthy plants, which destroys the entire work.

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