My mugo pine is turning an orange color and the needles are dropping. What caused this and can it be saved?



There may be several reasons for your pine needles dropping.  All pine trees do shed their old needles. The needles that are the oldest and closest to the trunk of the tree are shed after they have completed their usefulness, usually after 2-3 years.  

If all of your needles are dropping it may be due to drought stress.  All trees need additional irrigation to maintain their health and vigor.  You can check to see how much water your tree is getting by taking a long screwdriver and inserting it into the soil around the tree.  If the screwdriver goes in easily your tree is probably getting enough water.  If you have difficulty inserting the screwdriver you may need to increase your watering schedule.  Below is a link to a fact sheet on irrigating trees and shrubs.


Spider mites are another reason your pine may be dropping its needles.  Spider mites are very small plant feeding pests that are related to ticks and spiders. Spider mites thrive in warm, dry conditions.  They can make branches look dirty or even make the plant take on a reddish color if the infestation is severe enough. Spider mites do produce webbing and this is one things to look for if you think you may have spider mites.  You can also check for spider mites by shaking a branch over a piece of white paper and looking to see any of the small particles start to move. There are several methods to control mites.  If they are few in numbers you can spray them off your plants with a stiff stream of water from your hose.  You can also use horticultural oils or insecticidal soaps. Apply soap or oils at dusk to avoid the possibility of burning your plants during the heat of the day.  If you choose to use a chemical avoid using non-selective products that will kill the beneficial insects that prey on the spider mites. 

If you are not sure what is happening with your pine you can bring a sample into our office at 2001 S. State Street, room S1200 for help in diagnosing your issue.

Below I have included a link to our website where you can find more information. 



Posted on 21 Apr 2008

Heidi Wayman
Horticulture Intern, Salt Lake County

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