5 Ways to Protect Your Evergreen Trees and Bushes From Winter Damage

Closeup of a pine tree covered with snow. Blurry background. © Marco Verch

Photo Credit: © Marco Verch

How to Take Care of Your Evergreens for Landscaping

Protecting Plants for Winter

New England’s harsh winters can wreak havoc on your evergreen trees and shrubs if you’re not careful. Even though evergreens can survive through the winter months, cold temperatures, high winds and a winter sun can dry out evergreen foliage, damage bark and, if severe enough, even injure or kill branches and roots.

Protecting your evergreens during the winter can mitigate the damage and make for a prosperous spring. When you’re landscaping your yard and taking care of evergreens, you want your trees and shrubs to be an investment.

It takes a little time and planning in colder zones as in ours, so make sure that your fall maintenance schedule includes time for plant protection.

Here are five tips to protect your evergreens during the winter.

Apply Winter Mulch

During the winter, mulching landscape evergreen shrubs insulates the soil and roots.

Mulch maintains a steady soil temperature to prevent temperature extremes because it acts as an insulating blanket. Bare ground in winter causes temperature fluctuations that can force plants out of the ground exposing the roots. A warm spell can also do more damage by forcing plants out of dormancy triggering new growth that will ten be damaged as soon as temperatures plummet again.

Check susceptible plants after the first hard frost in fall to apply winter mulch. Applying too early, before the plant is dormant, may damage the plant.

Spray Anti-Desiccants

Person applying anti-desiccant spray to an evergreen.

Anti-desiccants, also known as anti-transpirants, are landscaping sprays that supply protective coatings to evergreens during the winter months. Spray an anti-desiccant product to reduce moisture loss on evergreens.

When the ground freezes, plants are unable to absorb moisture so they take moisture from their foliage, causing it to dry out. This can damage or kill your beloved rhododendrons, andromeda, hollies and more.

When sprayed on the evergreen foliage, anti-desiccants hold in the moisture during winter. They provide a protective coating on the foliage to reduce the water that escapes.

An application in November and again in January should protect them for the entire season. 

Water Your Landscape Evergreens

It might sound counterintuitive, but watering your evergreens during winter in between snowfalls will provide them with needed moisture to prevent desiccation and add insulating protection.

This is especially true during those sunny winter days that we’re sometimes accustomed to in New England thanks to our dry winters. Evergreens, after all, die not because of freezing but because of a lack of humidity.

As for leaving the work to snow? Snow insulates plants and regulates ground temperature. Don’t be afraid to shovel some extra snow on your shrubs but take care not to break them!

Wrap Your Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs in winter wrapping.

Wrapping shrubs creates a wind barrier and traps some warmth.

Use a porous material, such as burlap or sheets. There are many benefits to wrapping prized evergreens, including protection from deer damage, salt damage, ice damage and sun damage.

Tie up your shrubs that have a tendency to split from the weight of snow with twine. Evergreens such as arborvitaes sometime split down the middle and this damage is irreversible. Deciduous plants will typically recover, but some evergreens will not regrow from the damaged area.

Wrap Your Trees

Wrapping your landscape trees also offers some great winter protection in order to protect bark from sunscald.

Sunscald is a condition whereby tree bark on deciduous trees is damaged and frozen following periods of high temperatures during the winter season. On cold winter days, the sun heats the bark to stimulate growth. When a cloud or other obstacle suddenly blocks the sun, the temperature quickly drops, killing the active tissue.

Signs of sunscald include deep fissures, cracking dead bark and sunken areas. You can protect your trees by wrapping them with a commercial tree wrap designed for this use. Use white or another light color, never black or brown as they will absorb too much heat.

Thinking About a Yard Upgrade?

If you want to maintain your landscape properly for the winter and get a head start on spring landscape planning, chat with us. We’ve been helping families in south Boston create and maintain beautiful landscapes for over 25 years, so we know a thing or two.