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Can Brown Arborvitae Be Saved and More Care Tips

Arborvitae is a great type of tree to have on your property. It can be used to create a makeshift barrier or fence, or just to add beauty to your yard. This kind of tree is in the evergreen family, and its leaves are supposed to do just that, stay green forever. So if you’re noticing that your usually green tree is turning an unsightly brown color, it can cause concern.

Can brown arborvitae be saved? The answer varies depending on how much of the tree is browning and how long it stays that way. But that doesn’t mean you can never have arborvitae trees again. It also doesn’t always mean that your tree needs to be removed.

A professional tree service company like Mr. Tree may not have to completely remove your tree to resolve the issue. Sometimes, time will be able to heal parts of your tree. And knowing what preventative measures to take will help you avoid this problem down the road. Here are a few ways that brown arborvitae can be saved and tips on how to better care for your tree beforehand.

Why Is My Tree Turning Brown?

Knowing the cause of brown arborvitae is an important step in preventing it. There are a few times in the year and in the tree’s life that it’s more susceptible to browning. During the first few months after being transplanted is one of those times.



Trees are very fragile when they’re first moved and replanted. If your arborvitae has just been replanted and is showing signs of browning, it could be due to transplant shock. This is usually caused by the loss of roots during the digging up and moving process. It could also be due to having been planted too deep or not deep enough. A new tree should be replanted at the same depth that it was previously. Being planted too deep can cause the roots to suffocate, while not being planted deep enough can overexpose the roots. Both of those issues can cause your arborvitae to turn brown.


Drought-like conditions are another cause of arborvitae turning brown. In the summertime, your tree is likely combating intense heat from the sun, as well as dry soil. Drought weighs heavily on trees like the arborvitae, and watering during this season is essential.

Harsh Weather

Exposure to harsh conditions is one of the more common reasons arborvitae can turn brown, and heat isn’t the only culprit. Intense winds can also be a cause for brown arborvitae. If your tree is suffering from browning during the winter, harsh winds and freezing temperatures may be to blame. As the temperature drops, the ground may freeze and cause the roots to freeze as well. This makes it difficult for the roots to take in water and even more difficult for the lower part of the tree to share the water it has with the higher parts of the tree. This causes desiccation to occur. The top of the tree is still producing energy, despite not having access to water, and the sunlight hitting it can cause parts of the tree to die. When the weather is causing damage to your tree, it’s up to you to protect it.

Care Tips

Wrap Your Tree in Burlap

One of the best ways to protect your arborvitae trees in the winter is to wrap them in burlap. Burlap is a thick and generally inexpensive fabric that can produce major results during the winter. The burlap will block the sun from hitting the tree during times that it cannot receive water. It’s best to do this right before the ground starts to freeze. Grab a large piece of burlap, start from the bottom of the tree, and then wrap the entire tree up in the burlap until it reaches the top. To keep the burlap in place, go over your wrapping with twine, but this time start from the top down. This protective barrier will guard the tree while it’s unable to access water.

Water the Tree When the Ground Is Thawed

If you don’t want to wrap your tree in burlap but would still like to avoid browning, keep a close eye on the ground during the winter. Water can only penetrate the roots when the soil is loose enough for the water to reach them. If the ground isn’t thawed out, this can be impossible. But there are times in the winter when the weather heats up enough to thaw out the ground. This is the time you should be watering your arborvitae.

How to Save It

Brown arborvitae can be saved from conditions that cause it to brown, but it usually doesn’t change back to the healthy green it once was. That doesn’t mean the entire tree can’t be saved, however. Sometimes, a branch that has turned brown will grow out, and the parts of the branch that are closest to the trunk will grow and become their natural green. This is a good sign and means that the branch can be saved with a little bit of pruning. It’s best to wait to have pruning services done in the spring or summer, but once that time hits, you should have your branch pruned all the way back to where the leaves start to be green again.

Unfortunately, if the majority of your tree has become brown, it may not be able to recover. Still, you shouldn’t act too fast. Give the tree time to see if it’s able to recover or if the new growth from the tree is any different. If a sufficient amount of time has passed and you still haven’t seen any changes, it might be best to have the tree removed. You should contact a professional tree servicing company like Mr. Tree to have them perform safe tree removal service on your arborvitae.

Don’t give up on the possibility of having healthy arborvitaes on your property, even if one has to be removed due to browning leaves. By knowing what to look out for and what preventive measures to take in the future, you’ll be able to try again and find success.