Why Are My Pine Trees Turning Brown?

white pine White pine1

I am sure that some of you have noticed many pine trees in your town turning brown. My first reaction, since we are in Oceanside, was that they had been flooded by the Hurricane Sandy storm surge. But I was driving up the Meadowbrook Pkwy by Nassau Coliseum about a month ago and the pines on that road are brown as well.

White pines are very popular on Long Island. They like our naturally acidic soil. White pines are evergreens, so they will keep their needles over the winter, however those needles do not last forever. An evergreen will usually shed 1/3 of its needles every year, starting in the fall then push out new needles the following spring. If you have ever looked close to the needles you can see they have a wax coating on them. This helps prevent water loss in extreme cold as well as extreme heat.

White pines have their share of potential pests but after consulting with some experts, we have concluded that the problems we are seeing are a result of Hurricane Sandy. White pines do not like salt spray or high winds. During Sandy, the winds were strong and there was a lot of salt carried by the air. The fact that there was little rain during the storm did not help dilute some of that salt and wash some of it off. They have soft thin needles compared to other types of evergreens, and the penetration of the salt into the needles has helped dehydrate them and turn them brown.

The question is what should I do if I have these brown pines in my landscape? The best advice we can give you is to wait until spring and see if they push out new growth. There is a strong possibility they will. If you did get salt water flooding, then you should add the gypsum to your soil and correct that first. (See my article here: http://www.oceansidenygardencenter.com/news/12/43/). We also suggest adding Bumper Crop compost to your soil as well as Espoma Bio-Tone, which is an all-natural plant food with beneficial microbes and mycorrihizae. This will help develop a much larger root system for your pines, so they can extract more water and nutrients from the soil. When your pines do start to grow again, you should prepare yourself to see those brown needles for the upcoming season. Eventually they will drop and it will look like nothing ever happened.

Good luck and don’t worry. They will make it back in no time.

From the garden center,
Joe Dee
Dees’ Nursery & Florist
Oceanside, NY
joe@deesnursery.com http://www.deesnursery.com


7 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you for your advise about the white pines and the loosing of their needles. my yard is covered,the street is covered,my neighbor’s yard too. I’m spending hours a day cleaning up the needles. I hate the thought of losing the tree. I planted it myself 45 yrs ago……..here’s hoping that what you said will be. Ann Peterson,Deer Park,New York


  2. Thanks for your info……..


  3. Posted by Marie Lingner on May 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    Thank you I was wondering what happened to our pine trees..


  4. Posted by Chris on October 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I live in PA, and all of the white pines are turning brown. These trees in my area obviously aren’t affected by salt. It would seem its either from water deficiency or parasitic.


    • Hey Chris,
      I know this is very late in responding but I agree with you that your pines are not turning brown due to salt damage. I noticed you wrote back to me in the fall of 2013. One thing most people do not realize is that evergreen trees and shrubs will lose a third of their needles or leaves every fall/winter similar to how a deciduous tree (maples ect) loses all of its leaves in the fall. This is how an evergreen pushes out new growth. This could be what is happening to your pines. Another possible reason for your pines turning brown is that have an insect problem such as mites which can be very active in the cool days of the fall. My recommendation would be to spray your pines with Bonide Brand horticultural oil this March or April. This will kill any insect that may have overwintered on your pines. Hort oil is not only very effective but is also a very safe and non toxic way to control insects. It works by coating the insect with the oil spray and it smothers them. I would also consider feeding them now with Holly Tone fertilizer which is also 100 percent organic. This will help give them a good boost this early spring and get them back to health for you. Hope this answers your questions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: