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Home \ Discussion \ General Discussions \ My silberlocke fir is dying from the top down. Please help.

My silberlocke fir is dying from the top down. Please help. (4 Replies)

Posted September 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm

I have a beautiful Silver Show Korean Fir that is dying from the top down. I planted it last spring. It was about 4 -5 feet tall. I love near Harrisburg, PA, so the zone isn’t ideal, but firs are my favorite conifers and I am a new collector (past 3-4 years). Our soil has a lot of clay, so I mix it with sand and top soil and manure and Jersey Green Sand for a healthy mix that drains well and seems to work good for my other conifers. It gets plenty of water where it is. Its protected from wind on all sides and has shade in the am and early evening, with sun from about noon onward. It did spectacularly all summer with great cones. Then, just as fall approached, in mid-late August, it started to die. The leader went first and the first ring of branches. I cut that section off and crossed my fingers, but the rest is dying. I had a Silberlocke and it did exactly the same thing. The soil was not good where that was, but I have learned since then about the importance of good drainage. Can anyone help me save this expensive little Iseli tree?

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Posted September 28, 2017 at 6:51 pm

Had this same problem in north central Ohio. Tree eventual died all the way to the root stock. The weather was mild this summer with consistent rain. Last weeks of August we had a string of 90+ days and full sunshine.

I’d venture to guess this was the problem. If your tree starts to recover you can just upright one of the branches and that should become the new leader.

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Posted October 26, 2017 at 9:46 pm

Check out the photos of my tree planted here in Virginia in January 2017 and its total demise 8 months later: Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’

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Posted November 15, 2017 at 8:56 pm

Jeff, you may want to check out a couple of articles; one from Ed Gilman, an esteemed expert on everything trees, formerly of the University of Florida (http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/woody/amendments.shtml) and the other from Linda Chalker-Scott from Washington State University (https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/soil-amendments.pdf). In both cases and I know you can find additional supportive research that suggests that soil amendments are not helpful and in fact are harmful to the healthy establishment and growth of trees. I don’t know whether your planting practice with the ‘Silberlocke’ is the cause of its death, but it could be suspect.

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Posted November 15, 2017 at 9:49 pm

Thanks, Jack. That all makes perfect sense.
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I added only the smallest amount of manure, which I won’t do again. No other organic matter.
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In most of the areas I am now planting it is all new, filtered topsoil, because they are raised beds and/or areas behind new retaining walls.
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My Silberlocke (first) tree was planted in the natural clay, which held too much water and killed the tree.
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The second one, a Silver Show, was in topsoil mostly.
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The clay sucks, for sure. Where I encounter it, I improve the hole because the alternative is surely death. I mixed in some sand for better drainage and create drains that exit the bottom of the hole on a downward slope, so that water hopefully won’t pool up. But I could still see the roots balling onto themselves perhaps, or it draining too much in the summer, and I understand the concept.
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Well maybe when one dies it will give me a good reason to go buy another rare conifer! lol One has to look on the bright side. I only have an acre and a half.
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