Fall is a wonderful time of the year especially with the vibrant colours accentuated by the sun’s glow as it changes position on the horizon. What about that evergreen over there why are its needles dropping, is it sick? Needle shedding is common on evergreens, a better term would be conifers in order to dispel the assumption that they stay green forever. In most circumstances old growth on; spruce, pine, fir, cedar or even junipers discolours and is shed from the interior or lower portions of the tree or shrub. Yellowing and shedding is a natural process conifers will go through at least every 5-7 years. What makes the old growth shed is mainly due to the fact that exterior portions of the tree cast shade and limit the amount of sunlight reaching the tree’s interior. Picture an old conifer forest for example where the trees have no live growth near the bottom, the lack of lower branches is caused by them being naturally shed.
Shaped trees and trees planted closely together are also more prone to shedding in the shaded areas. Light means energy for plants, if a portion is not getting and producing enough energy to sustain itself and transfer excess energy to the rest of the plant it is shed. Deciduous trees also have a natural shedding process which results in deadwood. If there is dieback from the exterior of the canopy towards the interior you may be looking at a different issue. What can be done to prevent the shedding? Being a natural process there’s not much that can or should be done to stop yellowing and discolouration in conifers. Some actions can be taken to help reduce the symptoms and severity of shedding with plant health care practices. Proper watering during drought periods is a must and avoiding overuse of high nitrogen fertilizer. If you see an “evergreen” looking a little out of season don’t worry too much they just showing off their fall colours, it just might not happen every year such as their deciduous cousins.