Why Is My Bald Cypress Tree Turning Brown?

The bald cypress tree is a hardy plant with a fighting spirit that can thrive in USDA Agriculture plant hardiness zones from 5 – 10. Most gardeners and horticulturists will find that this tree is easy to take care of and rarely runs into plant problems involving pests, fungal diseases, and environmental conditions. If your bald cypress plant is not thriving, find out why your bald cypress tree is turning brown.

Why Is My Bald Cypress Turning Brown?

Poor environmental conditions such as being too hot and dry or too cold, can stress your bald cypress tree and cause it to begin dropping leaves before winter approaches. Inspect the leaves of your bald cypress tree for discoloration such as yellowing, browning, and bronzing of leaves.

This distress signal is a clear indication that your bald cypress tree is battling a plant disease, fungal infection, or pest attack. To prevent itself from further damage, your plant has gone into the dormant mode as noticed by the browning of leaves, needles, stems, and branches.

What Causes Cypress Trees to Turn Brown?

Cypress Carpet Moth

Cypress Carpet Moth

The larvae of the cypress moth feed on bald cypress tree leaves. Characterized by its yellow and black markings, this small moth will lay tiny eggs all over your bald cypress plant. Once the larvae develop into worms, they will begin making tiny holes and tears in the leaves and stems of your bald cypress plant.

It is important to get the cypress moth larvae and worms under control before extended tissue damage causes your bald cypress tree’s leaves to turn brown and fall off. Reversing your plant’s weakened growth and discoloration will be tricky if the worms enter tree needles. You need to get the situation under control as soon as possible!

Spider Mites on Cypress Trees

Bald cypress trees are particularly vulnerable to red spider mites. These sap-loving insects use their piercing and sucking mouthparts to punch holes in your bald cypress tree and drink your plant’s precious fluids. Over time your tree will weaken due to nutrient dehydration and can cause the tree to die. You will know this when you notice yellowish-brown leaves.

Even a few red spider mites can propagate to massive colonies in just a few weeks and create a spider mite infestation. Getting rid of them is challenging because they are not visible to the naked eye. To eliminate them, you will have to prune and trim off your bald cypress tree. Additionally, washing your tree with insecticidal soap or spraying pesticides can be helpful too! 
Spider Mites Affecting Leaves

Chlorosis in Trees

Poor environmental conditions such as dry weather spells, infertile soil with not enough iron content, and continuous dehydration can cause your bald cypress tree to become chlorotic.

If your bald cypress tree is suffering from chlorosis, you will notice that leaves have become flaccid, wrinkled, and brown. Nutrient deficiencies such as having a lack of iron and magnesium can also cause your bald cypress tree to become chlorotic.
Chlorosis Affecting Leaves To counter chlorosis, you will need to water your bald cypress plant abundantly for a few weeks. If your tree has nutrient deficiencies, it is recommended that you use 18-18-8 (NPK) fertilizer. Please be patient with your bald cypress tree’s recovery. It takes time to see results and improvement!

(Pro-tip: Adding grounded coffee and peat moss can adjust the acidity of your soil)

Cypress Blight

Leaf Blight If you notice your bald cypress tree’s needles turning reddish-brown along with leaves falling, it may have fallen prey to a fungal infection such as needle blight. Blight begins showing symptoms on leaves close to the bottom of your tree and it gradually spreads upwards.

Please note that applying fungicide can help reverse some of the damage done by this fungal infection. Although it can help, it may be incredibly challenging to recover from blight depending on how tall your tree is and how far the disease has spread. In most cases, your only option will be to cut your losses and prune your bald cypress tree. 

It is not unusual for your bald cypress tree to begin turning brown and losing its leaves, but it does not happen very often. If you notice browning of needles and leaves, you need to take action immediately to maximize the survival chances of your bald cypress tree. With time, effort, and patience, your tree will be back to optimal health.

Your plant is sending off distress signals so you can help it recover!