arborvitae browning from center

Last fall, we had 20 or so 5' arborvitae planted by our gardening guy. They browned up some during the winter, but pretty much came back over the summer. Now they are all browning out from the center. It looks pretty widespread and there is a lot of browning going on. Are we going to lose them? I hope not - it was a lot of $$$ to plant them in the first place. The gardening guy says we need to water them - which we are doing, but it looks pretty bad. Any advice or anything? We live on Long Island, NY.
We planted arborvitaes because we thought they were fairly hardy and easy to care for. It seems to me they are awfully finicky. We should have gone with hemlocks.
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They are very hardy and easy to care for, but there are a number of variables involved. First, where you got the plants, how big they were and how they were delivered (containerized or B&B). Arborvitaes are a dime a dozen but how they are grown by the grower and how they are harvested and delivered will have a lot to do with their long term viability. It pays to get good ones, not those offered by the box stores which have ridulously small root balls for their size and are often allowed to dry out.. Second, planting care is important - wide, shallow, unamended holes in well-draining soil. And they will need water to get established, specially during hot summers or dry falls and winters - 1" per week at a minimum. I suspect lack of sufficient watering (or conversely, TOO much) may be the problem
Hemlock would have required exactly the same considerations. Plus, they are subject to damage by adelgids in the Northeast.
pam - gardengal
pam - gardengal

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I found a Web site that states that browning from the center out in arbrovitaes is a normal occurence in the fall and not to worry.
http://www.ext.vt.edu/departments/envirohort/factsheets2/shrubs/sep89pr3.html
in the 4th paragraph. This is from the state of Virginia, but I've seen the same page elsewhere too.
The ones we bought were 5-6 feet tall and the gardener bought them from a wholesaler somewhere. Not from a box store. The ones we have were planted a year ago (fall 2003) by the gardener. I wasn't home, but I assumed he planted them correctly. I don't know if a year is enough to be considered "established" or not.
With all the browning that arborvitaes seem to do, they are emotionally dificult to have. I didn't expect them to be such drama queens. I wish they'd just sit there nice and green all year like hemlocks, although true - hemlocks do get adelgids.

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Establishing will typically take two to three growing seasons for a woody plant. Yes, some interior browing of foliage in fall or winter is common with arbs (and a number of other conifers, too) but I got the impression from your post this was rather extensive. Once they thicken up this should not be very noticeable.
"Drama queens"! First time I've heard them referred to as that :-)
pam - gardengal
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rec.gardens wrote:

I apologize if i am misreading you, but you say "browning out from the center". What is the exterior layer of foliage like? Healthy green or brown? Inside of that exterior foliage towards the center is normal to be brown when you have thick exterior foliage. All of mine are brown towards the center and lush green on the exterior and they are growing like bonzos -- to the extent that arbor vitae can. ;-)
FACE
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All summer they seemed to be green all the way. Now that it is fall, the interior is browning up. The outside still is green. I wouldn't say the exterior is "thick" - the plants are only 5-6 ft. tall and aren't that thick to begin with. I'm hoping that this is a normal annual fall thing with arborvitaes that as a new arborvitae owner I'm learning about. I hope. The didn't really put on all that much height this year, but maybe that is because they just got planted last fall and are getting established.
in

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Arborvitae are now shedding their inner foliage. Just as white pines are dropping older needles. At least here is pa. Beings its from the center it makes me think you are just seeing shedding.
Much more on trees: http://www.chesco.com/~treeman/SHIGO
--

Sincerely,

John A. Keslick, Jr.
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Bob, I can't help with your problem but share the exact same situation. Not only did they start to brown significantly in the centers but didn't stop there. Out of 16 planted, one died outright from root borer, 6 others lost rear half (probably planted too close to house), 6 others have half the stems dead. Only 3 are doing well! This is after 4 years, bought from a nursery with large root burlapped balls, all planted in same type soil, fertilized each spring and watered regularly via drip irrigation. And all in a forest setting loaded with very healthy hemlocks and native cedars (Quebec zone 4b) . I agree with you: I find them extremely finicky. My term for mine now is "ugly queens". I just hope they will adapt longterm, fill out and become just plain "Queens"!
Anyone with suggestions on acheiving this long term hope? Will they fill out eventually if I cut out dead stems? Any special care tips?

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Hardiness refers to the minimum winter temperature that a plant survive. It has nothing to do with anything that happens during the growing season.

Hemlocks to replace an arborvitate?
Get a new gardner.
Toad
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The fact that you live on Long Island makes me nervous, because I too live here and I see how some of the so-called "gardening guys" treat plants.
The crews here are big on weed-killer -- did they apply any near the young arbors? Also, they are big on "working" the soil at the base of trees and shrubs -- constantly digging and piling up soil at the base of stems because it may look asthetically pleasing, but it basically tortures the young roots and doesn't let them catch on. I've also seen rows of browning arborvitaes along dry, windswept curbs and high mounds, without any sort of mulch or adding of organic matter to the poor dry soil. In what conditions are your arbors planted?
~flick
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Well what do you expect? Al the Long Island "gardeners" are nothing but High School dropouts living in their parent's illegal basement apartments, who hire illegal aliens, and their only goal in life is to have the tallest, newest pickup truck!
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