Winter wind and sun are responsible for much of the injuries your landscaping plants will sustain over the winter. The elements are especially hard on broadleaf evergreens such as rhododendrons, hollies, mountain laurel and boxwood. Being evergreen, these plants are constantly losing moisture through their leaves, but since the ground is frozen, the water in the soil is unavailable and they cannot replenish their supply. Drying winter winds and bright, reflecting sun only serve to compound the problem. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to prevent this.
- Make certain that the plants have plenty of water before the ground freezes as a plant in a water deficit situation is much more prone to winter injury. Keep watering plants until the first freeze, but water slowly so the ground is not saturated which would lead to ice heave and root damage.
- A heavy mulch of shredded bark or leaves, pine needles or even straw can be spread around the plant to a depth of 3-5 inches. This will help preserve moisture in the soil and keep the soil warmer so delicate roots are not as easily damaged by ice and frost.
- Â An option for broadleaf evergreens is to use an antidessicant like Wilt Stop or Wilt-Pruf. It is sprayed on the plant to reduce the loss of moisture caused by wind and sun. See one of our team members for more info on this and how/when to apply.
- Remember, younger plants, saplings and newly planted shrubs are more subject to winter damage so take special care of these- keep a close eye on them to minimize any storm damage through the season.
- After a heavy storm, inspect your trees and shrubs for damage. If boughs or branches have broken, prune them away immediately so they do not continue to tear and cause more injury to the plant. Use a soft broom to brush off a heavy accumulation of snow if needed, but do not try to melt away any accumulated ice or frost, as the temperature change can damage the plants.
With good preparation and conscientious care, your trees and shrubs can withstand even the cruelest of winter cold and storms, and they’ll be bursting into new spring growth before you know it.