Plant Problems - Winter Burn

A warm, low snowfall winter is often great news for Idahoans, but bad news for many of our photosynthetic residents. Nice winters for humans can lead to Winter Burn in evergreens.

Winter burn is common in evergreen plants during unseasonably warm and snow-less winters. When temperatures say warm enough, evergreens will continue to respire (take up water). Coincidentally, many of our irrigation systems are off during this time of year. This leads to plants sustaining drought-like damage to their tissues.

Arborvitaes, Alberta Spruces, and Boxwoods are often the most affected. To prevent winter burn:

  • Keep evergreens water thoroughly throughout the entire growing season, especially newly planted ones until the ground freezes solid.
    • A thick layer of organic mulch (3-4'') can help the soil retain moisture for longer periods of time. Do not pile mulch around the trunk of the tree.
  • Trees can be covered with burlap to prevent too much moisture loss.
  • Plants with winter burn can be salvaged by pruning out the dead branches.

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