Evergreen Needles Don't Last Forever
Rosie Lerner, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Department of
Horticulture and Landscape Architecture , Purdue University
Evergreens provide green color all year long, but that doesn't
mean the individual needles live forever. Evergreens do shed their
older needles to make room for new growth. But what makes them
evergreen is that they retain some foliage all year long, instead
of shedding all of the leaves at once.
Evergreen needles have varying life spans, depending on the species.
Arborvitae and pine needles usually live for 2 years, while spruce
needles usually live 3-10 years. Some species of evergreens have
a more noticeable leaf drop than others. In autumn, arborvitae
and white pine will drop their 2-year old needles all at once,
which can be quite alarming, if you don't realize that it's perfectly
normal. On other species, needle drop occurs gradually, with a
small number of needles falling at one time. The older needles
of yew shrubs will turn yellow and drop in late spring or early
summer. Broad-leaved evergreens, such as rhododendrons, drop their
2-3 year-old leaves in late summer and early fall. Inner and lower
needles that are hidden from light are usually the first to drop.
Pruning excess growth and dead limbs can help open the plant to
more light. But, for most plants, there's no need to worry; they
are just doing what comes naturally.
Images courtesy of Rosie Lerner
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