Your Evergreens Drop Foliage In The Fall Too!

Your Evergreens Drop Foliage In The Fall Too!


Are your coniferous evergreens turning yellow or brown in their interior or dropping needles this time of year? Did you just receive an evergreen from Nature Hills this fall and the bottom of the is full of needles? 

Don't fret!

Every year the calls and questions ramp up in the fall, usually after the first cold snap or after the first strong autumn storm. And every year Nature Hills is here to ease your worries and remind you that Evergreens shed their old 'leaves' too!

Out With The Old

Just like deciduous trees do each fall, the oldest, most interior foliage drops as a way of making room for fresh new growth in the spring! Evergreens with needles or needle-like structures, like Pines, Spruce, Fir, and other types of conifers and broadleaf evergreens - All dispose of their old leaves that don't photosynthesize efficiently any longer.


While an autumn drop of needles and leaving bare branches is completely normal for deciduous conifers like Larch, some Redwoods, and Bald Cypress, other evergreens also shed their needles in the autumn as well! Just not completely.

Some evergreens hold only one year of foliage on the newest growth, while others may hold two years or more. Douglas Fir Trees and Hemlocks may stick around 3-4 years while some Spruce can hold needles up to 5!

Broadleaf Evergreens such as Camellias, some Rhododendrons, types of Holly, and Boxwood drop their leaves throughout the year as they become less efficient. Chances are you probably won’t even notice.

What To Expect In Autumn

Pine trees like White Pine hold the green, newest needles at the branch tips, but the older needles towards the interior will turn lemon yellow, brown, or tan, and fall off in a matter of a week or so. Leading to many gardeners biting their nails worrying something is wrong.

Don’t worry, all Pines will do exactly this, just some more noticeable than others!

Spruce, Hemlock, and Fir trees also shed their older interior needles closest to the trunk, but it is much less obvious and sometimes the shed isn’t noticeable.

Arborvitae shrubs and trees this time of year will also see their older foliage turning yellow or tan and getting ready to drop. All cultivars and species of Arborvitae will drop the older foliage each fall season, but some are much more obvious than others leading to some concerned gardeners.

This holds true for plants that are established, in the ground, in containers and planters …and plants that have just been delivered!

  • Oldest needles not photosynthesizing efficiently fall away
  • Interior needles being shaded out by new growth drop since they can’t produce food
  • Old needles in general

Just like the old hair on our heads, needles fall out to be replaced by new fresh growth!

Leaf Shed During Delivery

Being boxed and shipped exasperates the needle and fall leaf drop. Changes in humidity, temperature, and being out of the sun while your new plants are being shipped to you stimulate plants that are going dormant for the winter to hurry up the process of dropping those old leaves. Shipping can be a bit stressful for a plant after all! 

Not just for the plant but for you too! When you receive your newly delivered tree or shrub in the fall with the bottom of the box full of shed needles - we understand that can leave you with good reason to be concerned!

Don’t worry! Follow the instructions for unboxing and inspecting limbs and roots, soak your new plant, and then get it planted as soon as possible!

When To Be Concerned About Evergreen Needle Drop


When should you be worried when your Evergreens drop their foliage?

  • Any time during the growing season when entire branches or limbs suddenly become defoliated (lost all their needles)
  • Whenever needles at the tips of your branches fall off
  • If new buds drop before opening
  • Any time new growth falls off either still green or turns brown/tan first

Sometimes Spruce trees and shrubs can in some areas of the country be susceptible to a fungus called Rhizosphaera needle cast, or Spruce Tree Needle Drop, which causes the needles to turn brown and fall off.

In other areas, Rusts and other fungal issues on the foliage can cause yellowing and lead to needle drop too.

Spider mites can be an issue on stressed trees as well.


It’s a good idea to always check your trees and shrubs yearly and check in with your local County Extension Office to see which evergreens perform best in your immediate area and which to avoid due to a higher probability of potential issues prevalent in your region.

This is because susceptibility can change from one region/climate to another, and change from year to year as well!

Sanitation is key so if you suspect any issues with your trees - both deciduous and evergreen - be sure to rake up and dispose of any possibly infected dropped needles or leaves each fall. Stopping it from spreading or reinfecting your plants from year to year.

Any time you are concerned about your trees or shrubs, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local County Extension Office or contact Nature Hills!

It Is Called 'Fall' For a Reason!

Being aware that this happens, especially in a drought year, it is more obvious and may happen earlier in the fall. The key is keeping newly planted Arborvitae soil moist until the ground freezes. It also helps to provide supplemental water during the dry periods of the year and top off the root zone with a 3-4 inch thick layer of arborist mulch.

So if you have needles dropping in the autumn - It's just your trees removing old needles that aren’t pulling their weight! Get the rake and gather up this free mulch for your acid-loving plants and break out the hose!

Your conifers are just getting ready for the winter and preparing for bursts of fresh new spring growth! Nature Hills is here with you to help you get your garden tucked away for the winter and will be here for bright spring beginnings too!

Check out all the fantastic Evergreen Trees available at Nature Hills today!

Happy Planting!

shop evergreen

← Previous Next →