5 Reasons For Bird’s Nest Spruce Turning Brown [Treatment Guide]

Bird’s nest spruce is a Norwegian evergreen shrub. So,  we also call it Norway spruce. It is one of the most attractive evergreen shrubs that can brighten your garden for years and years. 

But when your bird’s nest spruce is turning brown then it’s normal to wonder why it is looking this way especially when it is supposed to be green all the time. 

So, what is making it brown?

Imbalance of watering, wrong kind of soil, freeze damage, spider mite, and the fungal disease anthracnose are the 5 main issues that are causing the browning of your bird’s nest spruce. 

I know, at the beginning these problems might seem difficult but we have done our research and combined our own experiences to bring solutions to these issues for you. That means reviving your plant is just a few steps away.

So, without making any delay let’s jump right in–

Why Is the Bird’s Nest Spruce Turning Brown?

brown disease of Bird’s Nest Spruce

1. Imbalanced Watering

When someone notices the bird’s nest spruce is turning brown in the middle then one can immediately think that the plant is dying for lack of water. This is true indeed but browning can also happen due to overwatering too. 

Since in both cases the leaves start to turn brown, it’s up to the grower to decide which case is causing it. If you haven’t watered them for a long time then it surely is caused by underwatering. But if you have watered them frequently then the browning is due to overwatering.

Control Measure

First up, you need to do some damage control. If the browning is caused by overwatering then you have to stop watering at once and allow the water to drain out completely. Also, make sure you provide your plant with a good drainage system.

In case of under-watered conditions, water them deeply and wait for the soil to completely dry before you water them again.

The bottom line is these are bushy plants so obviously they need a bit more watering than normal. Moreover, the bird’s nest spruce loves moist soil but it does not love waterlogged and soggy soil.

So sometimes it gets a bit complicated. But you can get a moisture meter to check the water requirement of the soil (Our pick: SONKIR Soil pH Meter, MS02 3-in-1 Soil Moisture/Light/pH Tester). Because before watering, you have to inspect the soil moisture and decide how much water it will need.

For the first few weeks, you need to water them every day if the weather is dry.  After the plant has been established then you can water it only once a week.

However, during the rainy season watering, you have to completely stop watering if you find rainwater is supplying enough moisture to the plant.

During very hot and dry spells, put a layer of mulch around the plant. This will help keep the soil moisture and it will also help the roots to stay cool.

If you are growing them in containers you have to water them a bit more. Because container soil dries faster than field soil. 

2. Wrong Soil

The wrong type of soil is another reason why your bird’s nest spruce is turning brown. Imagine you are watering your plants very nicely and correctly. But the soil is not draining the water timely. As a result, your plants will still be waterlogged and their leaves will turn brown.

So the bottom line is if you have the incorrect soil then no matter how perfectly you water your plant, it will never recover from the browning. In addition, the wet soil will cause fungal diseases in the roots and eventually kill the plant. 

Control Measure

When you have changed the watering accordingly but still there is no change in the brown leaves then it’s time to change the soil.

You see, the bird’s nest spruce prefers well-drained but moist soil that is slightly acidic or neutral in nature. You need to provide a good drainage system in the soil so there is no water logging condition.

Again you can add some sand to the soil because if the soil is too compact then the root system will not have enough room to grow and will be suffocated.

3. Freeze Damage

If your bird’s nest spruce is dropping needles and showing a mixture of yellowing and browning in the whole plant during the cold periods then evidently it’s the cold shock.

To be more precise the damage will affect only the outer part of the plant. And the inner part of the plant will remain green and healthy.

These plants have a good tolerance to cold but still, they are damaged by the freezing temperature. The damage is more when they are subjected to the strong chilly breeze.

Control Measure

The only thing you can do in this case is wait. The undamaged parts will produce new needles during the onset of spring. In winter you have to water them only once or twice a month.

Sadly the damaged parts are not very likely to recover. In this case, after the winter is over you can prune off the dead and damaged branches.

Because this will allow the plant to send more food and nutrients to the new growth. You can also pinch off the dead buds which will easily crumble between the fingers. 

4. Spider Mite

Spruce spider mites are a big reason for the browning of your bird’s nest spruce. These are so tiny insects that you won’t be able to see them with the naked eye.

For this, you have to watch your plant very closely. To check whether they are in the plant you can hold a white piece of paper under a brown branch and gently shake the branch. You will notice some specks fall on the paper with a slight movement.

These are very active during the cool period of spring and fall. They lay plenty of eggs under the scales and at the base of the needles. And the adults feed on the needles turning them brown and droopy.

The infestation is quite severe as they reproduce at a very fast rate. And you will see webbing in your plant. Moreover, dirt and fallen needles will be caught on the webbings and make the bird’s nest spruce look very ugly.

Control Measure

The bad news is that a severe infestation can kill the entire plant. So it is wise to take necessary actions as soon as the mites are noticed.

Get a good insecticide that kills mites effectively because some insecticides don’t just work against the mites. And apply the insecticide by following the instructions on the label (Our Pick: Natria 706250A Neem Oil Spray for Plants)

Dormant oil and neem oil works amazingly in killing mites. You can try the easy-to-follow recipes below and make your own insecticide.

#Recipe 1:- Dormant Oil Insecticide Recipe


  • 2 teaspoons of liquid dishwashing soap 
  • 200  ml of olive oil or sunflower oil


  • Mix the ingredients and store the liquid in an airtight bottle
  • You can apply it multiple times
  • Add 2 teaspoons of the prepared liquid with every  250 mil water and spray on your bird’s nest spruce 

#Recipe 1:- Neem Oil Insecticide Recipe


  • 1  tablespoon of neem oil 
  • 1 liter of water


  • Mix both items and spray thoroughly on both sides of your bird’s nest spruce every week

Note:  You see, homemade recipes are very safe but sometimes they react abnormally with the plants. This is why whenever you make any homemade insecticide or fungicide make sure you try it on a small part of your bird’s nest spruce. If the recipe reacts on the leaves then dilute the solution with some more water and try again. 

5. Anthracnose

Anthracnose is a fungal disease that causes yellowing and browning of the leaves of your bird’s nest spruce. In severe cases, sadly there will be a complete loss of all leaves.

This disease will also kill the tip of the young stems and show irregular brown spots on the diseased parts.

It mostly spreads when it’s cool and wet. Water splashes are the most common cause of the spread of this disease in your Norway spruce.

Control Measure

Start with getting rid of all the branches with brown leaves because these fungal spores will spread to other healthy parts with the help of air and water.

Then you have to treat your bird’s nest spruce with a good fungicide. Pick a fungicide that is effective and environmentally safe at the same time (Our Pick: Bonide 811 Copper 4E Fungicide).

Since these are bushy plants, you need to water them early in the morning so that the needles dry out in the sunlight.

You can also try some homemade DIY fungicide recipes. And trust me these will also work amazingly in your plant.

#Recipe 1:- Baking Soda Spray Fungicide Recipe


  • 2  tablespoons of baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons of  any cooking oil (optional) 
  • 5 liters of water
  • 2 teaspoons of liquid dish soap


  •  Mix everything and pour it into the sprayer
  • Spray on the whole plant twice a week as long as you need

# Recipe 2:- Epsom Salt Spray Fungicide Recipe


  • 5 teaspoons of Epsom salt 
  • 4  liters of water


  • Mix and start spraying 
  • You can spray this solution every week on your plant as long as the fungal problem continues

Preventive Measure

Anthracnose thrives in humid and damp conditions. This is why it’s better to prune the plant regularly and make sure of good air circulation.

Always clean and disinfect the pruning tools before cutting the branches. Because sometimes the tools get contaminated by fungal spores and spread the disease further.

Keep the area clean and free of weeds and debris. And don’t forget to dispose of the brown parts of your plant away from other healthy ones. 

How To Grow The Birds Nest Spruce [Quick Guide]

Birds Nest Spruce plant

To grow the bird’s nest spruce like a pro, stick to the following steps– 

  1. Make sure that your plant is getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
  2. Never let the soil stay waterlogged for a long time. Mix sand and perlite with the soil to improve drainage.
  3. However, keep the soil moist most of the time. 
  4. Water them once a week when there is no rainfall. And completely refrain from watering during rainy periods.
  5. During very hot weather, provide it with some shade in the later part of the day when the sun is spreading scorching heat. 
  6. Fertilize your bird’s nest spruce only once a year with a liquid slow-release all-purpose fertilizer (our pick: EZ-gro 20 20 20 Fertilizer).
  7. To apply the fertilizer, choose a cool day in spring when the new growth has just started to appear.
  8. Prune off the dead and damaged branches as soon as you spot them.
  9. You can prune it every other year during late winter or early spring. 
  10. If you are growing it in a container then shift it to a bigger pot every 2 or 3 years to allow the roots to grow

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do bird’s nest spruce need full sun?

They grow best under the full sun. But you can also grow them in partial shade, giving them at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. However, warm seasons give them a bit of shade during the afternoon.

How long does it take a bird’s nest spruce to grow?

These are very fast-growing trees. They can grow up to 5ft a year if grown in a good condition and with better nutrients.

Do birds nest spruce drop needles?

Yes, they do. They drop the needles which are basically their leaves whenever the plant is stressed. In scorching sun or in freezing temperatures, it drops the needles. Besides, needle dropping can also happen due to disease and insect attacks.

How long does a Norway spruce live?

If the birds’ nest spruce is getting the right conditions then they are very hardy plants and they can live up to 200 years or more depending on the place they are grown. 


When your bird’s nest spruce is turning brown you won’t have to sit back and watch. Because you are already aware of the reasons that are causing your plant to feel stress. 

Keep your plant healthy and strong by protecting it from Freezing, and from insects & disease attacks. And don’t forget to water them just the right amount. That’s all they ask of us. 

I hope this article effortlessly guided you to the recovery of your Norway spruce back to being evergreen.

James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg
James Rivenburg

James Rivenburg is the founder of plantandpest.com, a passionate gardener with valuable experience and knowledge gained through trial and error. The website has a large community of followers who trust his tips and techniques and have succeeded with his advice. He is always Committed to helping others create a beautiful and healthy garden.

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