Ask Burton: Q: I have a row of Eastern Red Cedar, and several of them are turning brown. What’s going on? My cedars have been bulletproof, to date.

A: There are two perfectly good reasons for why such a tough plant is having a hard time this year.

Weather.  Last year, we had a devastating freeze in February (February 2021) that injured the bark of many large trees and shrubs in North Texas. This year, the summer was brutal.  Plants trying to pull enough water to support healthy leaves through injured bark in this heat have a harder time.  Some of the plants you see dying around this time of year were due to weather damage accumulated over a two-year span.
Insects. We’ve seen more than the normal share of spider mites damaging cedars and junipers this early fall season. Stressed plants have a harder time resisting insect infestation.  Spider mite damage usually hits a limb at a time (sometimes a major limb!), and spreads to other limbs from there.  Tap damaged foliage that still has some green over a white sheet of paper and look for tiny moving specks. Those are spider mites.

We’ve seen examples of both at the nursery lately. Make sure your cedars get an occasional hose watering during drought conditions in the summer, and spray for spider mites if that proves to be the culprit in your case.  Damaged bark will heal over time if it’s not too extreme.

Burton specializes in diagnosing and solving plant problems. If you have a question for Burton, please email him at and include photos showing the problem.