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6 DIY tips to Prevent Winter Damage on Trees and Shrubs

There are 3 main types of damage that trees & shrubs suffer from during the winter. Once we have an understanding of the types of winter damage on trees and shrubs we will be able to better prevent them. 

1. Winter Burn Damage

Brown or bleached discoloration of evergreen plants may be due to lack of watering in late fall and winter. The discoloration is commonly known as winter burn. In the winter, the sun and wind tends to burn the plant because the roots are frozen in the soil and are unable to reach water and disperse it to the foliage. Winter burn can also be caused by early cold temperatures in the fall before plants have a chance to go to sleep for the winter.


ABOVE: Winter burn on boxwood and hollies. 

2. Sun Scald Damage

Another destructor is sun scald, which occurs when trees are heated by sunlight during the day, then when the sun goes down or a cloud covers it the bark of the tree drops rapidly, in turn killing the active tissue. You can tell if a tree has sun scald by the elongated, sunken, and cracked bark on the south or southwest side of a tree. Sun scald more commonly affects newly planted, young, or thin barked trees such as cherry, crabapple, honey locust, linden, maple, mountain ash, or plum.


ABOVE: This is an example of sun scald. 

3. Heavy Snow & Ice Damage

Heavy snow and ice damage is caused by bending or breaking branches from, you guessed it, heavy snow and ice.


ABOVE: Here is an example of arborvitaes that were deformed from heavy snow piles

Trees & shrubs are some of the most valuable pieces of your landscape, so it's important to keep them healthy.  

6 DIY tips to prevent winter damage on trees and shrubs:

  1. Create a covering. Use the branches (with needles) from pine or Christmas trees and prop them over or against your evergreens to protect against the winter wind and sun. This trick also helps the evergreens catch more snow for protection.
  1. Make a burlap barrier on the side of the plant most harmed by wind. If the evergreen shows signs of damage on all sides, create the burlap barrier surrounding the plant.
  1. Water consistently throughout the year, decreasing the amount in September, and then water thoroughly in October until everything freezes. Consistent watering will help the roots to stay strong and have water available in the winter. Read more about St. Louis Winter Watering Tips.
  1. Properly prune your trees and shrubs to remove weak, overlapping, or diseased branches. Ensure you are pruning your trees at the appropriate times so the new growth will not be damaged by the first freeze. Read more about winter trimming and pruning
  1. When shoveling or plowing, don’t pile your snow on or around trees and shrubs. Also avoid salting around your plants if possible. Make the decision when planting trees and avoid planting them near roadways, sidewalks, or driveways to avoid salt damage. 
  1. Protect your roots by mulching around your trees and shrubs. The mulch serves as an insulator and also helps the root retain moisture throughout the year.


I forgot to protect my plants! Now what? 

If your evergreens suffered any winter injury, it is important to wait until mid-late spring before pruning out any injured foliage. Any brown foliage on the plant is already dead and will not likely turn green again. However, the buds will often grow to fill in where the brown foliage was cut out as they suffer less damage than the foliage.

Dowco has expert Horticulturists on staff that can help you protect your trees and shrubs from winter damage! Contact us today for a free consultation and review of your landscape. Fill out the form below or call our office at (636) 532-9192. 

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Will my plants recover from winter burn?

When is the right time to trim & shrub my trees and shrubs? 

St. Louis Winter Watering Tips


Topics: Winter Season Maintenance

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