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Are my conifers dying?

Hello all

I'm very new to gardening. I bought my first house in December and it was a new build and had nothing in it. As well as getting lots of plants for my borders I got two pots and planted Thuja occidentalis Smaragd in them to look good on the patio. This was in about April and they have been fine apart from what I thought was natural browning at the bottom. 

I came back from holiday and to my horror both plants are affected by this browning. I'm not sure what is going on. Are they dying? Or do they have a disease or maybe just a lack of water even though it's been raining heavily.

Does any one have advice? I have tried to attach two pictures and an overall of my garden this far.imageimageimage


  • arneilarneil Posts: 312

    They do better in the ground , rain water is deflected from the roots by the foliage , try soaking them

  • HI 

    thank for the reply. So you think it's lack of water? Even with all the rain fall? i do water them every other day. Is it too much water or do you think they have a  disease ?

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353

    Rainfall would have needed to be very heavy, and very consistent to keep them well enough watered.

    They aren't ideal for  pots unless you can guarantee to keep them well watered, and even in damp areas of the country, dry spells are very difficult for potted evergreens. It doesn't take long for them to get dry, and it's difficult to rehydrate them.  There won't be lot of soil in those pots to sustain the top growth and enough room to allow roots to take up water either, so ideally, they need potted into something bigger.  You need a soil based compost, with some added leaf mould ,or composted bark to help retain moisture, and also allow air around the roots as well. Ordinary compost wouldn't be enough for them if you've used that. 

    Drainage still needs to be good - as for any potted plant - but there has to be enough moisture for the plant to access. image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    That is a lot of plant for a relatively small pot. As others have said, either put into the ground or repot into a larger pot and JI no. 3 compost.

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Thanks for the input these pots were the same size as what they came in so thought that this would be ok. I'm going to get some irrigation on these so maybe this will help. I can't afford new pots at the moment but how much larger would you suggest?

    So you really just think its a lack of water. Are they recoverable do you think? @Fairygirl I used compost and the soil I have hear which is very good. I used rocks at the bottom to help with drainage but the compost bark might be an idea maybe I can take them out and re-pot them would that work?

  • I have to agree with everyone else these conifers are not ideal in pots really.

    I usually use pots for the first year but then transfer into the garden.

    I have had conifers looking like yours do now and a transfer into the garden usually saves them

    but its pot luck I'm afraid.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,353

    Ssheep -  you seem to have done the right things re the medium they're planted in, so it sounds like the main problem is just the size of container they're in. As they grow, and the rootball gets bigger, they need more soil there for them to access moisture and nutrients as the rootball is taking up more and more room in the pot, and the top growth suffers. Once a plant is stressed, they start to shed foliage in an effort to survive and thrive. Conifers are tricky because you can't just cut them back easily to assist that. If they're in a very sunny spot, try moving them into a bit of shade too, to help prevent drying out too quickly. 

    As GJohn says, it's one of those things - they might be ok if you can get them into a bigger pot. Can you even get a couple of those big trugs which you can get in all sorts of places like supermarkets? Or even a couple of big plastic pots for now?  It would just give them more room to get roots out and enable them to access more soil, which would help avoid drying out. A good five or six inches in every direction would give a lot more volume. If they come away and start thriving, then you could look at getting bigger 'posh' pots for them next year, and if they don't make it, at least you haven't spent a fortune either.

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Thanks everyone for the inputs so far. Looks like I'm off to the garden centre at the weekend. With regards there size they are the same near enough as to when I got them back in April so I don't know why the rootball has got so large. I watered them again today but most just drained out of the bottom. I have moved them to.

    Everyone is saying they are not good in pots but when you see these same type of plants in pubs etc they seem to thrive and I thought they would make good patio plants. Wonder how other achive this. 

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,925

    I think the ones in pubs etc have a pretty high turnover ... they probably get fresh ones in each year.

    If the water is running straight through it could well be that the pot is so full of roots that it's not absorbing the water.  Try filling a large container with water and standing the tree in its pot in it for a couple of hours until the air bubbles stop appearing.  

    Mind your back  when lifting ! 

    Last edited: 24 August 2017 20:53:48

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,925

    Oh, and the roots grow first in order to sustain the top growth image

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

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