Caring for your vulnerable trees in Winter

Fri. Nov. 6, 2020

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Caring for your vulnerable trees in Winter

Once again it’s that time of year to protect your vulnerable trees!  Protect your woodies!  Woody plants are plants that have hard stems (thus the term, “woody“) and that have buds that survive above ground in winter. The best-known examples are trees and shrubs (bushes). These are commonly broken down further into the deciduous and evergreen categories. The opposite of “woody plants” is “herbaceous” plants

Winter sun, wind, temperature fluctuations, snow and ice can make for a deadly combo for your trees and shrubs.  Sunscald happens on bright winter days when the sun heats up the cambium layer on the south and/or west side of your trees.  The cambium layer moves water and nutrients through the tree, if it heats up, it starts to move and then freezes when the sun goes down and can kill your tree.  You’ll see dead bark that looks sunken, cracked or dried. Great information can be found at Missouri Botancial Garden.

Healing scar of sunscald on maple photo by Missouri Botanical

Apply light colored tree wraps or guards now on newly planted trees, meaning within the last few years and thin-barked trees like cherries, crabapples, plums, maples and honey locust. Wrap them from the soil to the first set of branches.

Fruit trees with white spiral

Don’t fertilize now.  But DO water your trees, shrubs, perennials up until the ground freezes sometime in December.  Especially newly planted trees and because we’re experiencing drought this year.

Evergreens commonly suffer from winter damage.  Winter Injury [University of Illinois Ext.]   Another great site on tree/shrub injury  of a variety of issues is from the University of MN Ext.

The most susceptible evergreens are Yews, Arborvitae and Hemlocks.  The best protection is to wrap them in burlap, although not attractive, it can really be worth it.

Winter burn photo by Genny Smith
Winter burn photo courtesy of Sargent’s Nursery
wrapped evergreens