Tips on how to Handle Winter Injury in Evergreen Shrubs

One of many best threats to an evergreen’s ever-greenness is winter, and all the cruel, damaging circumstances that include it.

An evergreen shrub that doesn’t maintain its verdant hue year-round is disappointing, whether or not the plant in query is a conifer or a broadleaf plant like boxwood, holly, or rhododendron.

A close up vertical image of evergreen foliage covered in a light dusting of frost in wintertime. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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A tough winter could make it troublesome for evergreen shrubs to take care of their lush, wholesome look.

That’s the place the information, ability, and foresight of a well-trained gardener could make all of the distinction.

“However I’m not skilled!” you could protest. Not but, you’re not. However after studying this information to managing and stopping winter injury in evergreen shrubs, you may be.

Your coaching begins now:

Managing Winter Injury in Evergreen Shrubs

Since winters are usually harsh and chaotic – particularly right here within the Midwest – don’t be shocked in case your evergreens expertise greater than one of many following sorts of injury concurrently.

Chilly Temperature Harm

At the beginning, an evergreen that lacks the hardiness essential to thrive in its native local weather will most likely endure chilly damage.

A standard boxwood, as an illustration, received’t fare properly should you place it in USDA Hardiness Zone 3.

The fluid inside its foliage will freeze and develop at temperatures under what the shrub can tolerate, rupturing cell partitions. And floral and vegetative buds are sometimes much more prone to chilly damage than the leaves are.

A close up horizontal image of damaged foliage of a spruce pictured in light sunshine on a soft focus background.

This mobile injury will go away tissues wilted, warped, and/or blackened.

New development turns into limp, watersoaked, and withered, whereas evergreen shoots particularly bend downwards and exhibit crimson or brown discoloration every week or two after damage.

Belowground roots aren’t proof against chilly damage, both.

Soil is often hotter than air and slower to chill, and roots are literally much less hardy than aboveground shoots. Add root system shallowness, an absence of insulation, and excessive chilly to the combination, and root damage or demise can simply happen.

Generally, it’s not even the precise diploma of the coolness that issues, however slightly, the timing.

Evergreens will adapt to the stress of reducing temperatures come winter, supplied the change is gradual. However an uncommon bout of low temperatures in early fall can strike an evergreen shrub earlier than it’s had time to acclimate to wintertime chills.

On the flip aspect, a late spring frost can hurt that very same plant after it’s lowered its defenses in anticipation of the approaching heat of the rising season.

A horizontal image of a thuja hedge that has sustained extensive winter damage.

All through winter in lots of areas, temperatures additionally have a tendency to leap up and down like a foul liar’s polygraph studying, going by means of repeated cycles of freezing and thawing.

This implies your shrub is making fixed makes an attempt to maintain up, making an attempt to adapt in an ever-changing setting.

Temperatures can change rapidly, and it’s straightforward for a burst of chilly to catch a plant with its guard down.

Relating to managing chilly temperature damage, an oz. of prevention is value a pound of remedy – choose evergreen shrubs which might be suitably hardy on your area to start with, and transplant them both earlier than bud break in early spring, or previous to the onset of chilly temperatures in late summer season or fall.

Make sure that so as to add three to 4 inches of mulch atop the basis zone, as properly.

In case your shrubs are solely marginally hardy on your space, be aware of the microclimates fashioned in your backyard.

Circumstances resembling heavy shade, harsh winds, and low elevations can decrease the temperature past what a hardiness zone map signifies, and will put your specimens in danger.

Alternatively, using protected areas resembling courtyards or planting close to partitions might help defend your shrubs from harsh exposures.

A horizontal image of a line of yellow thuja growing along a fence line, covered in a light dusting of snow.

Keep away from pruning too early or fertilizing too late, since each can result in chilly damage.

Untimely pruning earlier than the final frost in spring will go away the minimize ends weak, whereas belated fertilization in late summer season or fall will kickstart new development that received’t have time to harden off.

However suppose all that prep doesn’t go in keeping with plan and your plantings are in jeopardy. Now what?

Container crops will be moved indoors or right into a greenhouse when temperatures drop too low, whereas in-ground plantings will be lined with a thermal plant blanket.

A close up of the packaging of the Planket, a frost protection cover for plants, isolated on a white background.

Planket Plant Cowl

When you’re searching for a light-weight, sturdy blanket with built-in grommets across the edge for straightforward staking, strive the Planket, accessible from Amazon.

When you suppose damage has occurred in a department, examine for injury in spring by scraping a little bit of floor bark away. Inexperienced tissue beneath signifies life, whereas browned necrosis signifies that the department is useless.

Prune useless branches away with sterilized instruments in spring, when the shrub begins to place out new development.

Make your pruning cuts all the way in which again to the primary residing node, bud, or department offshoot. The pruned areas ought to fill in with recent development inside a few years, supplied repeat chilly accidents aren’t sustained in the identical spots.

When you examine an troubled shrub in spring and discover that it’s totally brown and useless from prime to crown, then it most likely received’t get well.

If that’s the case, then it must be promptly eliminated and changed with a hardier specimen. When you’re significantly hooked up to a selected species or cultivar, you could possibly place an analogous specimen in a barely hotter microclimate someplace else in your panorama.


Winterburn is primarily associated to a scarcity of water. Daylight and wind strip away the plant’s moisture, whereas frozen soil hinders the uptake of water by the roots.

Poorly-developed, shallow root programs and low temperatures – particularly following a heat and sunny day – can additional exacerbate moisture issues.

With out sufficient water, desiccated leaves will seem brown, decayed, and even bleached.

In coniferous evergreens, discoloration first seems on the needle and scale ideas, whereas broadleaf specimens will initially exhibit signs on the leaf edges.

It’s additionally value noting that broadleaf evergreen leaves are sometimes extra prone to winterburn than conifer foliage.

A horizontal image of an evergreen shrub that has turned brown with winter damage, outside a residence.

A holly leaf, for instance, is a a lot bigger goal for wind and daylight than a slender pine needle. Plus, winterburned broadleaf foliage is manner extra conspicuous.

As severity will increase, winterburn can result in leaf drop, discoloration all through the plant, and tissue demise. Severely troubled crops might perish, in time.

As soon as a winterburn broken shrub begins to exhibit new development in spring, take away any broken leaves, stems, and branches.

A visible examination ought to suffice, however be at liberty to make use of the identical scrape check that you’d for chilly temperature damage to find out which parts of your shrub have died again.

Some winterburn threat components are out of our palms, resembling a heat autumn delaying the onset of dormancy. However many types of winterburn prevention are properly inside our management.

The correct placement of appropriate crops is paramount. Select adequately hardy specimens, and place them in spots which might be shielded from extreme wind and solar publicity. Solely transplant in early spring or late summer season into fall.

Pruning too early or fertilizing too late may even go away tissues weak to winterburn.

A 3- to four-inch layer of mulch will insulate the basis zone and cut back water loss, whereas correct irrigation up till the soil freezes will prime off the plant’s hydration ranges for the winter.

If supplemental safety is required, burlap or canvas screens might help to defend crops from harsh solar and wind. Use stakes a minimum of 4 toes tall, and ensure the screens face the course of prevailing winds.

Much like these with chilly temperature damage, any shrubs winterburned past restore must be eliminated after you’ve taken the time to offer any nonetheless hanging on an opportunity to bounce again.

Change them with harder plantings, should you so need, or select future planting areas which might be extra protected.

Snow and Ice Breakage

I can empathize with evergreen shrubs considerably, since we each have a tendency to achieve some undesirable wintertime weight.

However whereas my extra mass stems from peanut butter and indoor confinement, snow and ice buildup is what usually weighs down these crops.

A close up horizontal image of evergreen branches covered in a dusting of snow in wintertime.

Because the precipitation piles up, branches and stems can turn out to be bent out of practice, which is dangerous sufficient by itself.

When the burden will increase past a sure threshold, these buildings can break, rendering crops unattractive and weak.

You possibly can’t actually take away ice buildup whereas temperatures stay under freezing, however snow will be dismissed because it accumulates in your evergreens.

In periods of intense snowfall, you might have to take action each 4 to 5 hours.

Relying on the peak of the shrub, you could want some vertical help from a brush or light-weight snow shovel. As all the time, don’t climb ladders to carry out yard work in unsafe circumstances.

A horizontal image of an evergreen hedge with a dusting of snow in the winter.

Except you’re Storm from the X-Males, chances are high you’ll be able to’t management the climate… however you can put together an evergreen shrub for snowfall and ice forward of time.

In spring or summer season, prune any weak or structurally unsound branches that may break in a blizzard.

After a snowy and icy winter, take away damaged, hanging, and in any other case broken branches in spring to maintain your shrubs wholesome and searching sharp.

If the injury is in depth, the help of an expert arborist will be invaluable.

Herbivore Feeding Injury

Winter is usually a lean time for a lot of plant-munching mammals.

As soon as their most popular crops turn out to be scarce, herbivores resembling deer and rabbits can flip to your evergreen shrubs for sustenance.

A close up horizontal image of a deer in the winter garden.

Tender younger specimens are particularly weak, and extreme “pruning” by the native wildlife might end in a failure to ever attain a symmetrical type as crops mature following a harsh feeding.

For prevention, some high quality fencing can turn out to be useful. A line of deer fencing round your property and particular person rabbit fencing round specimens you need to defend can present the final word one-two punch of safety.

Liquid repellent will also be sprayed on or at-risk crops.

Solely apply liquid merchandise to dry foliage when temperatures are above freezing, and reapply in keeping with package deal directions, significantly after intervals of heavy rain.

Liquid Fence sells gallon-sized containers of liquid deer and rabbit repellent which might be accessible on Amazon.

Liquid Fence Animal Repellent

If herbivores nonetheless find yourself consuming your evergreens, you’ll have to attend till mid- to late spring to see the extent of the injury.

If munched-upon tissues nonetheless haven’t put out new development, it’s finest to chop them again to the primary residing, rising node.

Salt Harm

As quickly as that first bout of winter ice glazes over the pavement, people are fast to douse sidewalks and driveways with copious quantities of salt, specifically sodium chloride.

And whereas that usually saves pedestrians from breaking a hip, it might go away evergreen shrubs with accidents of their very own.

A horizontal image of a person's feet walking down a sidewalk that has had salt applied in winter.

If rock salt lands within the root zone, it might probably forestall a plant from absorbing water. If the focus is excessive sufficient, uptake of different important minerals from the soil could also be impaired.

Collectively, these issues trigger spring and summer season signs resembling desiccation, foliar browning, and root injury.

Moreover, if salt is sprayed onto a shrub it might probably kill twigs, branches, and foliage.

All of the extra cause to watch out when making use of salt: achieve this conservatively, and do your finest to regulate the place the salt truly finally ends up.

As an alternative of utilizing normal sodium chloride, you possibly can enhance traction with coarse sand or de-icing merchandise which might be safer for crops, resembling calcium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate.

Inexperienced Gobbler Calcium Chloride

Inexperienced Gobbler sells 45-pound pails of fast-acting calcium chloride which might be accessible on Amazon.

Pure Various Calcium-Magnesium Acetate

Alternatively, you should buy concrete-safe calcium magnesium acetate from Pure Various, accessible in 30-pound baggage on Amazon.

The kind of burlap barrier talked about earlier to dam solar and wind can turn out to be useful as a salt defend as properly, particularly for evergreens rising alongside public roadways the place municipal salt software is unavoidable.

Many different supplies work for shielding, too: plastic, plywood, and even window screening!

For any specimens troubled with extra salt publicity, deep watering in spring might help to flush what stays from the soil. Broken areas could also be pruned right now as properly.

When you’re searching for much less salt-susceptible plantings, take a look at our roundup of salt-tolerant evergreen shrubs!

Improper Vacation Lighting

Granted, that is the least regarding menace on the record.

However wouldn’t it sting should you’ve defended towards the opposite winter risks described right here correctly, solely to harm your evergreen shrubs with a misguided try at vacation cheer?

A horizontal image of a line of evergreen shrubs decorated with small yellow holiday lights outside a residence.

First, ensure that your vacation illuminations are cleared for the outside, not designated for indoor use solely.

Strings of indoor-only electrical lights, whereas secure to make use of with plastic Christmas timber, may presumably burn or in any other case injury your residing shrubs. Any branches which were harmed will be pruned after the final spring frost.

Acquired the appropriate lights? Be certain that they haven’t any frayed wires or free connections, each of which may trigger {an electrical} hearth.

Moreover, make the most of extension cords and lightboxes that are resilient towards the weather – these should be rated for out of doors use as properly.

Lastly, be aware about the way you truly put the lights up.

You shouldn’t choke out your plantings through tightly-wrapped lights, and juvenile specimens shouldn’t be draped with heavy lights that may snap younger branches. Look forward to them to mature a bit first.

Winter Is Coming…

Whether or not winter is simply across the nook or a number of seasons away, it pays to “be ready,” because the Boy Scouts are fond of claiming.

A horizontal image of a garden scene with a variety of different evergreen plantings.

With the guidelines supplied right here, you’ll be able to assist your evergreen shrubs to make it by means of the hardest season of the 12 months, sans damage. Winter damage, that’s. A drive majeure resembling a lightning strike or shrub-shearing sleepwalk may nonetheless happen, I suppose…

Have remarks or inquiries to share? The feedback part awaits.

To guard different crops within the backyard from the damages of wintry climate, you’re positive to search out these guides fairly insightful:

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