8 Reasons To Cut Down Your Spruce Tree (And When To Do It)
If you have any variety of spruce trees in your yard, you may have thought of cutting it down at one point or another. That’s okay, like many other trees, sometimes the maintenance gets to be too much or you have concerns. You aren’t alone in this consideration. Unsure of whether this is the right move? We’ve got you!
Some reasons you may cut down your spruce tree have to do with safety, like if branches or roots are creating hazards. Others have to do with the well-being of your tree, such as the tree being infested with pests. If your spruce tree is going to fall soon, you should remove it as soon as possible.
Spruce trees are beautiful and can be great plants to have, but we’ll dive into the reasons that you might need to cut your tree down. Stick with us to learn about why, and even when, you should cut down your spruce tree.
Your Spruce Tree Is Too Messy
You may expect an evergreen, like spruce, to keep its needles year-round. After all, isn’t that the point of the tree being called evergreen?
Your thought process would be off to the right start, but the term just means that needles or leaves will continue to grow even as others fall.
Spruce trees are evergreen but still shed their needles each year. In fact, they lose quite a large quantity of needles. So, if a messy yard is a concern of yours, you might realize the spruce tree isn’t for you.
Losing needles is not the only concern with your tree creating a mess in your space- there is also sap.
Although the sap of a spruce tree might have many purposes, it can also be quite messy when it comes to maintaining your tree.
There are multiple products to clean up tree sap, among other things, off of your car, house, or other belongings. This Goo Gone Automotive Cleaner is just one product that could help you clean up some sap if it is creating a mess.
However, if you have to park under your spruce tree daily, or have other property or even plants under your tree, the mess may be more than cleaning up can handle.
As far as plants go, read up on the best plants and worst plants to grow under your spruce tree here!
Your Spruce Tree Is Already On Its Way Out
There are quite a few reasons you may need to cut down your spruce tree, and affliction can be a big one.
If you can catch the whats wrong with your spruce tree in the early stages, you may first consider pruning your tree. This can help to remove any affected branches or areas without requiring you to cut down your entire tree.
For trimming, you can use Fiskars Bypass Pruning Shears to prune any areas that have started to decline.
If this isn’t possible, the affected areas are too large, or the issue was not caught until the later stages, you may need to take down the entire tree.
What might some common examples of spruce tree issues be? We’ll go over four of the most common things that affect spruce trees so that you know what to look for.
The first three we’re going to mention are the primary ones to watch out for. They are all caused by fungal pathogens and have distinctive signs that can help you figure out what the issue is.
Needle Cast In Spruce Trees
Needle cast may not have immediate effects on spruce trees. The fungus will probably infect fresh shoots that are growing, and may not cause them to fall off until the following year.
For this reason, it’s tricky to diagnose this one in time.
The appearance of the tree will soon after become varied depending on where the living and affected areas are. You can expect large sections of the tree to have completely brown, dead areas as there are many small branches but no needles to blanket them.
If enough needles are falling, you can’t get it under control, and the mess in your yard is growing, it may be time to cut down your spruce.
Tip Blights In Spruce Trees
This spruce fungus is similar to needle cast because it causes the dieback of needles.
Less similar to needle cast, tip blights might immediately cause dieback to the new shoots that are emerging. You’ll expect to see this much more immediately on your spruce’s branches.
Canker In Spruce Trees
Canker afflictions are not only common but also widespread and can be quite destructive to trees of many types. The spruce tree is no exception to this.
These cankers result from fungi infecting branches or trunks of trees, most often where a wound was formed. This newly opened part of the tree is more susceptible to being affected.
Cankers appear as sunken spaces on a stem, branch, or trunk that will likely ooze resin. So, not only is this type of infection harmful to your spruce tree, but it can create quite a mess in your space.
As the infection develops, the tree may create ridges to halt the spread of the fungus. These growths, and developing cankers in general, can cause a tree to stop the transportation of nutrients and water.
To give a bit more of a background here, we have a few Norway Spruce’s to the side of our new home that are affected by Cytospora Canker. Here’s an image below of what I’m talking about.
Notice the drip coming out of where the branches were trimmed – not pretty. Luckily, cytospora isn’t really a game ender for this type of spruce and many trees require trimming and treatment but are worth it to keep around if you value your foliage. We like the trees as they keep our house cooler due to the shade!
However, many people opt to remove the trees. We’d rather keep them as they’re quite expensive to remove rather than trim and treat 🙂
Spruce Needle Rust
While this one won’t cause your needles to fall off how needle cast or tip blight might, it will cause them to turn a pinkish-tan color. Hence the name needle ‘rust’, as the appearance of the needles becomes discolored.
Similar to needle cast, the needles will drop off the year after the needles become discolored from needle rust.
Depending on the severity of spruce needle rust your tree might perish as well.
If the needle rust is bad enough that pruning won’t do the trick, cutting your tree down before it fully falls may be in your best interest.
Remember – contact your local arborist to get their thoughts and tips. It helps everyone to get a quote!
Your Spruce Tree Has Surface Roots
These can cause foundation damage. Not only are surface roots a pain to deal with, but they can also cause some genuine issues.
Surface roots could indicate that your spruce is not getting the nutrients it needs, which could also relate to an underlying issue.
If you’ve already tried a balanced fertilizer like Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed All Purpose Plant Food, your spruce may have something else going on. It may also just not be making the progress it should, and is overcorrecting by stemming surface roots.
You can learn more about what the best spruce tree fertilizers are in our list!
Regardless, these types of roots aren’t just a tripping hazard, they can cause some serious accessibility issues within your yard.
What’s more concerning is that they can cause foundation damage to nearby buildings, which likely means your home.
These surface roots also make your tree more susceptible to issues like weather damage and animal interference. Since roots should be below the ground, those that are exposed can cause problems on multiple levels.
You may not be able to remove surface roots if they aren’t caught at an early stage, and removing them could harm your tree more severely if they are already established.
If your surface roots are causing an issue for you and your space, or are allowing harm to come to your tree, it might be best to take the tree down.
This is an unfortunate solution, especially when a tree is otherwise healthy, but it could be necessary to keep your house, yourself, or the surrounding area safe and uninterrupted.
In this case, I would also recommend reaching out to a professional arborist to first determine that it is your best plan of action.
Your Spruce Tree Requires Too Much Upkeep
Between making a mess, creating potential foundation problems, and the potential of disease, it is understandable why you may think about cutting your tree down.
One of these issues on its own is enough, but if you have a combination of these things, you may be at your wit’s end by now.
Once problems begin with plants, it sometimes seems like they might never stop. While you could try to get the tree’s issues under control, sometimes the upkeep is more than you can handle. That’s okay – we all have our limits!
If cleaning up sap or needles is too much to deal with consistently, it may be time for removal.
If your tree has a disease or is infested, it may be time to say goodbye and move on with your life. Depending on the severity, of course.
There are many reasons in this article that you may resonate with, but if your tree is simply too much to handle, that is enough of a reason to eliminate some work from your life.
Who knows, you could even get some good firewood out of the deal if the tree is still stable enough.
Your Spruce Tree Keeps Getting Insect Infestations
When it comes to spruce trees, insect infections alone don’t tend to be the biggest concern.
However, when combined with an already weakened tree, they can push things to the next stage of damage.
For example, say your tree has had needle cast, and then gets an insect infestation that further affects the weakened branches and needle area. This could be a game ender and create the last bit of damage that keeps your tree from the possibility of bouncing back.
We will go over two of the types of insect infestations that are most common. You should watch for these along with other issues.
These types of infestations from gall adelgids are mostly aesthetic but could cause damage to your tree if it is already weakened.
Adelgids feed on tree shoots by sucking on the sap from plants, so the shoots end up becoming deformed. The shoots will develop galls which, again, are mostly aesthetic but could also weaken branches that are already susceptible to fungus, storm damage, or other animal activity.
Spruce Spider Mites
These mites are not insects, technically, but are related to spiders (hence the name.)
An important distinction, an insecticide may not be a viable solution to rid your spruce of these spider mites.
What exactly do they do?
The damage caused by spruce spider mites is akin to that of the fungus that causes needle casts. In fact, it is easy to mistake one situation for another.
This could be a problem, especially if you mistakenly assume a fungus is a controlling factor when it is a spider mite or vice versa.
Knowing your situation and how to handle it is crucial, and your tree may have some genuine issues if infestation or infection is not properly treated.
You Want To Minimize Potential Storm Damage From Branches
If your spruce tree is growing close to your house, odds are there is a fine line between close and too close.
Especially if you live in an area prone to storms, you may need to consider removing your tree before it causes damage.
You could live in an area with tornadoes, hurricanes, or even earthquakes. No matter the type of potential natural disaster, if your tree is too close for comfort, it could cause more damage than it is worth.
If you are concerned about strong winds or minor events, you might want to check with a professional to assess the risk in your area. Often, less severe weather types will not be strong enough to take your tree down.
However, even in the right conditions of a thunderstorm, a tree has the potential to fall. If you feel unsafe or have concerns about the proximity of your spruce to your home, fence, or any other part of your space, tree removal might be the right step.
Especially if your tree has been… say it with me: weakened by other situations like pests, fungus, rot, or prior storm damage, it may not withstand other conditions as well.
It is better to be sure than sorry, so you should check with an arborist to determine whether your spruce is helping to block winds or if it is going to be a cause of destruction if a storm occurs.
Your Spruce Tree Is Not Growing Properly
Say that your spruce tree isn’t necessarily diseased or infested, it isn’t too close to any structures, and things are generally alright.
What other reason might there be to remove a tree?
If your spruce tree is not growing properly, this is reason enough to remove it. You may end up putting time, money, and lots of maintenance in just for it to stay at a stagnant place of growth.
Unfortunately, sometimes trees just don’t grow properly. Whether the seed was compromised or if there is an underlying issue that you cannot pinpoint, it’s okay to remove a tree that is not properly making progress.
The Cost Of Saving Your Spruce Tree Outweighs The Benefits
On a very similar note, sometimes the cost of maintaining a tree is just more than it’s worth to keep the tree.
This cost could be financial, of course, but it could also be a labor cost, the loss of time, or overall stress about keeping up a tree that is not worth it.
Your spruce may have one or more of the above concerns to deal with, and it’s alright if that is just too much to handle.
To take care of yourself, your space, and other plants, you may need to eliminate the thing that is draining your time, energy, and wallet. If that is your spruce, it could be time to take it down.
When To Cut Down Your Spruce Tree
No matter if your tree is on its way out, or you simply cannot handle the upkeep of your spruce any longer, it might be time to say goodbye to your tree.
Now, part of the timing of cutting your tree down will have to do with the motivation, and how much your tree is affecting other plants, your property, or your belongings.
If you are cutting your tree down because of preference, or a problem that only has an internal impact, the dormant season is by far your best time to remove the tree.
According to Iowa State University, the branches will be easier to handle in the late winter and early spring, during the dormant period. Therefore, this is also the right time to prune your tree if that might be the first solution to handle infestation or any other issues.
If your tree is creating a hazard, or you fear it could damage your space, you can always have an arborist help you determine your next steps based on your situation.
That’s A Wrap!
Even if you love your spruce tree, you might have to let go.
Let’s go over some of the most common reasons that people cut their spruce trees down:
- Your spruce tree is too messy
- Your spruce tree is diseased
- Surface roots are causing foundational problems for buildings or accessibility issues
- Too much upkeep means not enough time for you to focus on your tree
- Your spruce tree keeps getting infested with insects
- To minimize potential storm damage that branches (or the entire tree) may cause
- Your spruce tree is not growing properly
- The cost of saving the tree outweighs any benefits of keeping it and trying to keep it stable
Remember, it may depend on the situation, but the best time to cut your tree down is going to generally be winter and early spring. The dormant season will give you the most success in getting the tree down more easily and safely.
Call a professional arborist if you have concerns or if your tree is causing safety issues and needs to come down ASAP.
If this article applied to you, it may mean that you are about ready to cut down your spruce tree. Thanks for letting us be a part of your Tree Journey. Until next time, friends!
Pettersson, M., Frampton, J., Rönnberg, J., & Talgø, V. (2016). Neonectria canker found on spruce and fir in Swedish Christmas tree plantations. Plant Health Progress, 17(3), 202-205.
Tjoelker, M. G., Boratynski, A., & Bugala, W. (Eds.). (2007). Biology and ecology of Norway spruce (Vol. 78). Springer Science & Business Media.
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