How To Save A Dying Pine Tree?

Realizing that one of your beloved pine trees is struggling can be disheartening. Many times, although we appreciate their beauty and presence on our property, we can forget that trees need regular inspections and maintenance.

In this article, we’ll talk about some common pine tree problems and how to treat them, if possible. 

How Do You Know if a Pine Tree is Dying?

how do you know if a pine tree is dying

There are many different ways that pine trees will show you that they’re not doing well. It can be challenging to tell how serious the problem is, however, since seeing one of these issues occasionally or to a small degree doesn’t always indicate a problem.

It’s a good idea to take a full overview of your tree when you notice a potential symptom of illness, note the severity, and check to see if it’s exhibiting multiple symptoms. Here are some of the ways to tell if your tree is unwell:

Dead Branches

The easiest way to tell if your pine tree is sick or dying is by looking at its branches. Often, the first symptoms of tree problems show up on the leaves or branches.

If you notice that the branches of your tree are bare, browning, or wilting, there’s a good chance that your tree is not happy. 

Falling Needles

Although pine trees are evergreen, meaning that they retain their leaves throughout the year, it’s still normal for them to lose their needles to some degree.

Pine trees shed a fair amount of old needles generally in early fall, retaining only the newest growth. But if you notice that your tree is losing all of its needles, or way more than usual, be on the alert for other signs of illness.

Peeling Bark

Healthy pine trees have strong bark that stays attached to their trunk. If you notice bare spots on the trunk or bark that peels off easily, this is an indicator of an unhealthy pine. 

It’s important to note that small sections of bark missing from the tree unaccompanied by other symptoms can be normal. Animals like woodpeckers can cause some bark loss in pine trees.

Excessive Leaking Sap

It’s pretty standard to see a small amount of sticky sap on the trunk or branches of your pine tree. If you notice that there are large amounts of sap running down the tree, however, this could be a sign of something more serious. 

Check to see how much sap is covering the tree, and the color of the substance. If the sap is also an unusual color, like white, there’s a good chance that your tree is showing signs of disease. 


A healthy pine tree has a strong trunk that allows it to stand up straight and tall. If you notice that the trunk is leaning in any spots, or it’s dropping branches frequently, it’s important to act fast. 

There are many diseases that can cause structural issues with your tree, and make it more susceptible to wind damage. This can be extremely dangerous, depending on where the tree is located on your property. 

If you notice trunk weakness or excessive branch dropping, call a tree service professional to diagnose the issue and remove the sick tree as soon as possible. 

How Do You Bring Back a Dying Pine Tree?

how do you bring back a dying pine tree

Whether a pine tree can be revived depends on the specific issue, and how soon you’re able to address the problem. Trees with irreversible damage, sadly, cannot always be saved. 

Here are some common pine tree illnesses, and how to treat them: 

Bark Beetle Pests

  • Symptoms: Bark beetles damage pine trees by burrowing into the inner bark of the wood. Signs of an infestation include small white or reddish-brown spots on the bark, holes in the bark, and needles changing color. 
  • Treatment: Once a tree is infested, chemical treatments likely won’t help, and could risk killing other beneficial insects. The best solution is usually to cut down the affected tree and dispose of it responsibly to prevent the beetles from spreading to nearby trees. 

Needle Blight

  • Symptoms: Needle blight is caused by a fungus and causes the pine needles to fall off of the tree. You will notice the needles develop green bands, which then turn reddish-brown, then yellow, and subsequently fall off. 
  • Treatment: Fortunately, this disease can typically be kept at bay by regular copper fungicide treatments at least once per year. 

Pine Wilt

  • Symptoms: Pine trees with wilt disease gradually wilt and turn brown as a result of a deadly pinewood nematode – a microscopic worm. 
  • Treatment: Unfortunately, there is no cure for pine wilt disease. But you can, however, stop the disease from spreading by cutting down infected trees as soon as you diagnose the issue. 

Here’s a great video on how to prevent this deadly illness in pines.

Pitch Canker Disease

  • Symptoms: Another fungal disease, pitch canker illness causes the tips of pine branches to wilt, change color, and the needles to fall off. It’s also characterized by oozing branches and wounds in the trunk. 
  • Treatment: Pitch canker disease cannot be treated, but many pine trees are able to recover on their own within a few years. 

Needle Rust

  • Symptoms: Pine tree needles with rust develop small pustules, which rupture and spread spores to other trees. 
  • Treatment: Luckily, pine trees sustain little damage from the disease and treatment is not necessary.

Root Rot

  • Symptoms: The first noticeable symptom of root rot in pine trees is usually stunted growth. Eventually, the tree will decline in appearance, turn yellow, then wilt and die. 

The brown, dead needles will remain on the tree, and you may notice a resin oozing from a canker around the soil level. The wood around the area turns a darker brown, and then black.

  • Treatment: Root rot usually happens when pine trees are grown in unsuitable locations. The only solution for this is to remove the infected tree, and do not replant any others on that site.  

How Do You Keep Pine Trees From Dying?

how do you keep pine trees from dying

The best way to keep a pine tree from dying is to provide regular care and maintenance to your tree. When disease or pest damage occurs, it’s usually exacerbated when the tree is already weakened from improper growing conditions. 

When growing a pine tree on your property, remember the following: 

  • Choose the best location: before you plant your tree, make sure you have the correct amount of space for your pine, and place it in an area where the soil is well-draining and receives full sun. 
  • Amend the soil: To help your soil drain better and avoid diseases like root rot, work mulch into the top 12 inches of the soil around the pine tree. 
  • Prune regularly: Remove any dead or dying branches as soon as you notice them. This is your best chance of catching any potential disease quickly before it spreads. 
  • Inspect the tree routinely: Often, full-fledged infestations are difficult, if not impossible to treat. You can maximize your chance of success if you’re always checking for early signs of pests, like small areas of browning needles and dying branches. If you see a suspicious pest or damage to your tree, you may be able to take a sample to your local extension office for diagnosis and possible treatment recommendations. 

It’s important to note that many symptoms of pine tree illnesses can overlap, and therefore can be tricky to diagnose. And the treatment for each disease can vary significantly and also depend on environmental factors. The best way to get a reliable diagnosis for your sick pine tree is to contact a tree service professional as soon as you notice the problem. 

5 thoughts on “How To Save A Dying Pine Tree?”

  1. Everything was dying in this area due to lack of rain for a very long period of time. My pine got little watering and I was away. May brown needles but still a good amount of green ones. Any hope?

    • Hi Donna, I have the same situation going on with my Spruce Pine. I don’t know if it is going to survive. I was hoping someone may have experienced this in the past and good give me some hope and advice. I hope you tree survives and mine too.


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