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Winter burn on evergreens

The ground is thawing… the snow is melting… the sun is shining… and now you can see…

… My Japanese Hollies have brown patches!

… My Southern Magnolias look bad!

… My Leyland Cypresses look burnt!

Cherry Laurel, Yews, Junipers, Boxwoods, Rhododendrons…………..

This type of damage occurs when a plant’s tissues dry out from wind or ice-melting chemicals, lack of moisture in the air or soil, or a “wrong plant/wrong location” scenario. Evergreens are particularly susceptible because their leaves never stop losing water, even during their “dormant” season. When these leaves evaporate more water than the roots take in, you’ll see some damaged foliage.

During severely cold weather, the ground surrounding the root system can freeze, which decreases or stops the uptake of water. If the weather turns warm and sunny while the ground is still frozen, evaporation increases and discolored or “burned” foliage starts to appear. The damaged leaves are generally concentrated on the side of the plant facing the wind, where evaporation is greatest.

How do i fix it? Most leaves will fall or be pushed off by new growth, but those that don’t can be hand-stripped or pruned away. Premature pruning can increase damage by exposing vulnerable inner leaves, so resist coming to the rescue of your plants too early.

How do I prevent it? If conditions are dry in fall, make sure you water to compensate for the lack of rain. If plants begin to show signs of winter burn, pull out the hose on the warmest day possible (to avoid the hose freezing and bursting) and water the frozen ground to melt the moisture frozen in the soil and make it available for uptake. It’s also a good idea to maintain a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of mulch to reduce water loss.

Although unattractive, windbreaks of burlap, canvas, or similar materials can be installed to protect small evergreens. Do this in fall to help reduce the wind’s force and to help shade your plants.