Arbovitae shrubs turning brown is one of the most common landscaper concerns. These trees provide a beautiful splash of green throughout the year, adding color to an otherwise dull winter landscape. While arborvitae are generally low-maintenance, they can experience browning due to environmental stresses.Arborvitae Shrubs Turning Brown

Join us as we explore the causes of browning in arborvitae, discuss preventative measures, and provide solutions for addressing this issue if it occurs on your trees.

Why Are Your Arborvitae Shrubs Turning Brown?

Your arborvitae shrubs are turning brown because of the lack of watering; it can also be due to winds, or the imbalance in the temperature. Moreover, the root system can be weak, and the shrub may have a damaged trunk, winter burns, summer drought, and lastly, transplanting shock.

These versatile trees can truly elevate your outdoor space. However, even the most resilient plants have their limits and can fall victim to challenging environmental factors that lead to stress and, worst-case scenario, the dreaded brown hue. Suppose you’ve noticed your arborvitae starting to turn brown; you should not be worried, instead, try to check the key reason.

– Lack of Watering

Maintaining a healthy watering routine is crucial for the well-being of your plants, including arborvitae. As a general guideline, most established plants thrive with approximately an inch of water per week.

If your region is experiencing a dry spell, and you neglect to provide your arborvitae with the necessary hydration, it will start to feel the strain, often manifesting in unsightly browning. In short, you would also start to see how the plant is becoming weaker in the longer run.Shrubs Turning Brown Causes

– Winds

Whether it’s the biting gusts of winter or the summer breeze, these winds will leave the plants thirsty. When the ground freezes, the roots are unable to replenish the water loss, further worsening this problem.

Just as the rainfall is scarce in the sweltering summer heat, the struggle to restore lost moisture becomes even more challenging. Remember to shield your beloved plants from the harsh effects of wind, ensuring they stay hydrated and resilient throughout the seasons.

– Temperatures

As the sun’s fiery gaze intensifies, a natural phenomenon occurs within plants known as transpiration. This process involves the release of water vapor from the leaves, akin to tiny perspiration droplets, and when there is a lack of it, the plant will begin to have brown tips and edges.

When temperatures soar, the plant cells responsible for regulating these tiny openings, called stomata, respond by widening their gates, allowing water to escape into the atmosphere. In colder temperatures, these stomatal openings tend to seal shut, conserving precious moisture within the plant.

During the summer months, this dance of water vapor becomes most pronounced, leading to increased water loss. If this lost water is not adequately replenished, your arborvitae may find themselves in the grip of drought-induced stress.

– Weak Root System

Their journey to establish a strong foundation is long and perilous when it comes to newly planted trees and shrubs. These youthful trees have underdeveloped root systems, which can hinder their ability to efficiently absorb and distribute water to their thirsty leaves. If you recently welcomed arborvitae into your landscape, this may be one of the culprits behind their distressing brown transformation.

The roots play a vital role, acting as nature’s conduits, absorbing precious water and essential minerals from the soil and delivering them to the rest of the tree. However, the delicate balance can be disrupted if the roots suffer damage from activities like digging, tilling, or encounters with curious creatures.

– Damaged Trunk

The trunk of an emerald green arborvitae is a hub of vital activity. It harbors a delicate layer called the cambium, a thin, resilient band of vascular tissue responsible for orchestrating the movement of life-sustaining water and nutrients throughout the entire plant. When wounds breach the protective bark and disrupt this crucial cambium layer, trouble ensues.

Among the array of factors contributing to the browning phenomenon, this particular case is closely intertwined with the scarcity of adequate water. When a significant portion of the trunk’s cambium is damaged, the arduous task of delivering water to the leaves becomes a formidable challenge.

– Winter Burn

This seasonal affliction manifests as a gradual browning of foliage, starting at the delicate tips of branches and slowly creeping inward toward the heart of the plant. The regions of foliage that bear the brunt of the sun’s gaze—south, southwest, or west-facing—are most susceptible to this winter scourge.

For instance, when you have sunny winter days, as the sun’s rays grace the exposed foliage, a natural process called transpiration ensues. Water is lost through the leaves, a dance with the atmosphere that keeps the plant hydrated and balanced.

When the ground beneath remains frozen, the roots, like sentinels of sustenance, are unable to replenish the water lost through transpiration. As a consequence, the leaves or needles, deprived of their life-sustaining moisture, succumb to dryness and take on the hues of desiccated brown.

Winter burn serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between nature’s elements and the resilience of plant life. However, the issue would be extreme when the browning continues and the health of your shrub is triggered in the long run.

– Summer Drought

During the scorching summer days, the rate of transpiration intensifies, causing your arborvitae to lose more moisture to the atmosphere. It’s a natural response to the heat, as the tree’s cells open their leaf pores, known as stomata, to release water vapor.

But if your arborvitae is supplied with a limited water source, it struggles to replenish the moisture that evaporates into the hot air. As a consequence, its leaves may begin to exhibit telltale signs of browning, and this is because the right temperature has been shaken, the soil is drying faster than normal, and proper water isn’t spreading all the way to the roots.

Imagine your arborvitae thirsting for relief, desperately seeking replenishing water to quench the thirst. Without this vital resource, its leaves become parched, their vibrant green hues fading to a somber brown in the longer run.

– Transplanting Shock

When a tree undergoes the upheaval of being uprooted and relocated, its delicate root system can suffer damage, disrupting its ability to absorb water effectively. This disturbance in its water intake can manifest in the form of browning leaves.

Imagine the tree’s roots, once firmly anchored in the soil, suddenly disturbed and disrupted during the transplantation process. Like a disrupted network, these damaged roots struggle to provide the tree with the nourishment it needs.

As a result, the tree’s leaves may begin to show signs of distress, their once vibrant green hues fading into a worrisome shade of brown. You will see how this is a vulnerable state; the transplanted tree calls out for extra care and attention because the plant is in a stressed state.

How To Fix Browning Arborvitae Shrubs?

To fix browning arborvitae shrubs, you should try to plant them in the right location, and make sure you would plant them in spring time. In addition, try to add mulch to provide humidity to the trees, water them before the cold winters, and provide protection.Fix Browning Arborvitae Shrubs

– Plant in a Sheltered Location

Strategic placement is key to their overall health and vitality. To shield these beautiful evergreens from the wrath of harsh winds and the intense gaze of the winter sun, it’s crucial to choose a location that offers protection and respite and to promote the right care tips.

By opting for a planting spot on the north or east side of a building or within a sheltered courtyard, you create a haven where these majestic trees can flourish. The right lighting is what this plant needs so that it wouldn’t face sunburn, if the intensity is too much.

Positioning them in such a manner ensures that they receive a gentle touch of sunlight, enough to sustain their growth and vitality without subjecting them to the harsh and drying effects of direct exposure. This thoughtful placement allows the arborvitae to thrive, basking in the filtered light that dances through the protective shadows.

– Plant in Spring

You must also pick the ideal time to plant arborvitae for a successful establishment. Early spring allows them to develop strong roots and prevent leaf browning. If planting later, opt for early fall to avoid the summer heat and provide sufficient time for root establishment. Learn more about setting up newly planted trees for success and avoiding transplant shock.

– Use Mulch

Mulching is a vital practice for maintaining the health of arborvitae. It helps retain moisture, enhance soil quality, and protect against lawnmower damage. Discover the benefits and proper techniques of mulching trees and shrubs.

In short, you will notice how the mishaps can compromise the root’s ability to fulfill its vital duty when proper moisture is lacking. So you should remember to carefully handle your young arborvitae and take precautions to protect their tender roots, and mulch will give the plant’s roots the proper amount of nurture through moisture.

– Water Before Winter Colds

In regions with freezing winters, ensuring your trees and shrubs are sufficiently hydrated before the cold sets in is crucial. As mentioned earlier, sunny and windy winter days can cause leaf moisture loss.

On the other hand, when the ground is frozen, the roots are unable to replenish the lost water. To counter this, if your area experienced a dry autumn, be sure to provide your arborvitae with deep watering sessions before winter arrives to ensure they remain well-hydrated throughout the period when they will be facing cold temperatures.Giant Arborvitae Trees

– Provide Protection

To shield your arborvitae from the drying effects of harsh winter winds and sun, there are various options available. Using burlap, canvas, or snow fencing, you can create protective barriers around your plants.

Place stakes about two feet from the drip line, focusing on the south and west sides, and wrap the surrounding material. These barriers will deflect the wind and prevent direct exposure to the sun. Remember to remove the protective material during early spring.


The issue of arborvitae tree turning brown has been thoroughly explored, and we have uncovered the main causes behind this phenomenon, so let’s do a quick re-check of everything:

  • Environmental stresses, such as water issues, winds, temperatures, weak root systems, damaged trunks, winter burn, summer drought, and transplanting shock, can all contribute to the brown arborvitae.
  • Remember to provide ample hydration to your beloved green giant arborvitae trees during these parched times to ensure their resilience and vitality.
  • By implementing preventative measures and following the provided solutions, you can effectively address and resolve the problem of browning arborvitae.
  • Planting in a sheltered location, choosing the right time for planting, using mulch for moisture retention, and ensuring adequate watering before winter.
  • Providing protective barriers against harsh winter conditions are all essential steps to maintain the health and vibrancy of your arborvitae.

Remember, proper care and attention are key to the success of your arborvitae.

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