Arborvitae Turning Yellow

Arborvitae Turning Yellow – 4 Main Causes & Solutions!

If you are having problems with your arborvitae turning yellow, you are not alone. A lot of people struggle with this issue, and fortunately, it can be fixed. However, if you just leave it untreated, there’s a risk that your tree will die.

Your arborvitaes may simply be losing leaves to make room for new ones when they start to turn yellow, or they may be in trouble.

Your arborvitae may be turning yellow due to pests, lack of water, missing nutrients, transplant shock, or disease. Animal damage and improper planting may also result in yellowing. You will need to identify what is causing the issue before you can treat it.

Arborvitae Turning Yellow

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Arborvitae turning yellow is not unusual, but it is a problem and you will need to take steps to solve it. There are many reasons that this might happen, and the first thing you’ll need to do is identify the issue so you know what you’re dealing with.

If your arborvitae is yellowing, you should start by checking whether it is thirsty and in need of water, or whether it is getting too much water. This is the commonest reason that established trees turn yellow, as explained by BesideTheFrontDoor.

Yellowing could also be caused by pests and diseases, so you will need to look your tree over and check its leaves for signs of invaders. Not many pests attack arborvitae, but the cypress tipminer will eat the twigs of the plant, gradually causing yellowing.

Alternatively, your plant may need feeding. If it isn’t getting the right nutrients and its soil has been depleted, it won’t be able to maintain healthy green foliage.

For newly planted trees, you might notice yellowing as a result of improper planting conditions. This will need to be rectified if the tree is to survive.

Solution To Improper Watering

Yellowing due to improper watering is reasonably easy to fix.

First, take some time to determine whether your tree is being over-watered or under-watered. Arborvitaes need a moderate amount of water and well-draining soil. They don’t cope well with floods or droughts. Poke your finger into the surface of the soil, to about 1 – 2 inches down.

If the soil feels dry, give your plant a good drink. If it is still wet, wait a few days and then water it.

If your plant is consistently too wet, check whether the plant’s drainage is suitable.

Most arborvitaes need regular watering in the summer, but you should always check whether your plant needs water before you give it some. 

Solution To Pests And Diseases

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If your plant is being attacked by a predatory insect or infection, its leaves will turn yellow as a result of stress.

Check the foliage for signs of insects. Cypress tipminers are common pests, and they are hard to spot on the branches. The larvae will chew the foliage, causing it to turn yellow and then brown.

Remove the insects by wiping them down with neem oil. This will kill any that you can find and reduce the impact on the tree.

Unless you have a serious infestation, the damage will usually be localized and small, but it still needs treating. According to the University of California’s Agriculture ; Natural Resources, you can also reduce these pests by spraying them with a systemic insecticide in the winter.

Solution To Lack Of Nutrients

Lacking critical nutrients can also cause yellowing, and your plant will gradually use up the supply in its soil. Fertilizers will help to add iron, potassium, nitrogen, and zinc back into the ground so that your plant can absorb them.

Fertilize your tree once per year. You should opt for a slow release, granular fertilizer. Add this fertilizer in the spring, just before your tree starts growing.

Spread the fertilizer around the area of your tree’s roots, up to 3 feet away from its trunk.

If your tree is thriving, add less fertilizer or even skip a year so you don’t over-feed it. Too much food could cause other problems.

Solution To Improper Planting

If you plant an arborvitae too deeply in its soil, there is a risk that it will start yellowing. Equally, if it is in a spot with too little light or poor drainage, you’re likely to see the foliage growing pale. You should choose your planting site with care to avoid this.

However, arborvitaes are reasonably easy to dig up again, and you can simply relocate your tree if it isn’t happy. 

  • Locate a better place for your arborvitae.
  • Use a spade to dig around your plant’s roots, loosening them and being careful not to break them.
  • Dig a new hole for your tree and site it in the hole.
  • Plant the tree with its top roots at the surface of the soil, not buried beneath it. This is how it prefers to grow in the wild.

You don’t want to do this too often, because transplanting it will cause shock and yellowing too, but it is a possibility if your tree isn’t in a good spot.

Also read: Prayer Plant Leaves Turning Yellow


Arborvitae turning yellow is not uncommon, but it does indicate that something is wrong with your tree. You should check whether your tree is getting the right amount of water, and whether any pests are attacking its leaves or roots. Next, think about when you last fed the tree, and if you have recently planted it, check that the conditions are suitable.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you fix a yellow arborvitae?

You can fix a yellow arborvitae by determining what has caused the yellowing, and then taking steps to resolve this issue. Arborvitaes generally turn yellow when there is a problem with their environment, whether that’s pests, too much or too little moisture, or something else.

Until you have determined the problem, you cannot fix it. There is no point in treating an arborvitae for cypress tipminers if the real problem is over-watering, and there’s no point in fertilizing your plant if it’s suffering from pest damage. Make sure you know the issue so that you can solve it.

How do I make my arborvitae green again?

If your arborvitae has gone very yellow, you might be looking for tricks to make it greener, but unfortunately, all you can do is let your plant recover and provide the best possible conditions while it does. Be vigilant for further signs of problems.

Most arborvitae will bounce back and recover once you have corrected the environment and removed any pests, so you will have to be patient. Don’t try fertilizing your plant, heavily pruning it, or otherwise trying to force it to produce more greenery, or you could make it sicker.

What do overwatered Arborvitae look like?

Many of the symptoms of over-watering are the same as those of under-watering. Your tree may produce yellow or brown foliage, and it might wilt and start to drop its needles. There is a high risk of your plant developing root rot if it stays wet for too long, so make sure you put it in a spot with good drainage and do not over-water it.

Always check whether your plant actually needs a drink before you supply one. If the drainage in its area is bad, consider replanting it in a different spot so it doesn’t get water-logged.

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