How to Protect Evergreens From Winter Burn

Evergreen pine needles close up. Winter Burn

Winter Burn

Protecting evergreen shrubs and trees from winter doesn’t have to be challenging. Follow these simple steps to avoid winter burns.

When the snow begins to melt and you evaluate your landscape in early spring, it can sometimes be a shock.

What happened to cause your evergreen tree to turn brown? Are your evergreen trees completely dead? Can they be cured? What’s even more confusing is that winter may not even be harsh. So what happened to cause so much damage to your trees and evergreen shrubs?

The culprit may be winter burns.

What causes winter burns?

Winter damage (or winter burn) occurs when evergreen trees do not have enough water reserves. On sunny days, leaves transpirate, taking water out of the plant. However, the root system may be inactive and unable to get more water to move through the plant. Instead, the plant will rely on stored water, and without water, the plant will begin to die. Winter burns are most severe when four winter-specific conditions happen:

  1. Sunny days – When it is sunny, evergreen trees escape (naturally losing water and moisture through the leaves.)
  1. Lack of snow – You might think less snow is good. Snow could have a benefit for plants. Snow is a natural insulator and protects plant roots from cold temperatures. Snow also provides moisture for plant roots.
  1. Cold Temperatures – Cold temperatures combined with a lack of snow cover mean tree roots can freeze. Frozen root systems cannot get moisture. Plants cannot replenish the water lost during transpiration.
  1. Wind – Intense winds also contribute to drying shrubs and evergreen trees.

How to prevent winter burns

Water in fall

Watering evergreens in the fall may be unnatural if you haven’t watered them during summer. Watering evergreens in the fall prevents winter burn.

Watering in the fall allows the plant to store moisture. When plants lose water through transpiration in the winter, this reserve water supply keeps the plant from drying out.

Protective coating

Mulching flower beds is often considered a spring job for aesthetic reasons. However, the coating has other advantages beyond the aesthetic aspect.

Mulch helps insulate plant roots and provides extra protection against the cold. The coating also helps retain moisture, helping to prevent dehydration caused by sweating in the winter. Mulch is a part of fall garden maintenance and is one of the best things you can do to protect plants.

Buy cold-resistant plants

Plants not hardy in your growing area will likely die in harsh winters.

Play it safe and buy plants that meet your area’s cold hardiness limits. 

Review the tree hardiness map to ensure you have the latest data.

-Don’t prune conifers in the fall

Pruning encourages new growth in spring and summer. But when fall comes, conifers reserve energy to prepare for hibernation.

Pruning in the fall depletes precious energy reserves and increases the risk of winter damage.

Maintain a healthy landscape by knowing when to prune shrubs.

-Do not fertilize at the end of the season

Do not add late-season fertilizer to your evergreens, especially fertilizers high in nitrogen. 

Encourage foliage growth and interfere with the natural dormancy period.

-Wrap shrubs and trees

There is no doubt that wrapping evergreen shrubs and trees will be very useful in preventing winter burns. 

Evergreens are the highlight of your winter landscape, so don’t turn them into ugly brown potato sacks. 

Try more aesthetically pleasing packaging if you really feel the need to wrap your evergreens, 

-Seasonal needle loss is normal

Don’t be fooled in mid-fall when you see brown foliage on your evergreens.

Many homeowners are worried and think their evergreens have begun to feel the effects of cooler temperatures. 

Brown foliage during this time is actually completely normal. 

Contact Landscaping Oakville for you next gardening project.