How to Grow: Protecting Evergreens in Winter

Learn how to protect your evergreens trees and shrubs from damaging winter winds and cold.

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Rhododendron, Leaves, Bud, Winter, Snow, White, GreenWe’ve all seen it happen. A beautiful, broad-leaved rhododendron looks great going into winter. But in spring the leaves have browned and curled, turning our beautiful specimen into a deposit for the compost pile. So how do we get our broad-leaved evergreens such as rhodis, mountain laurel and pieris shrubs to make it through winter? It’s all about protection.

Broad-leaved evergreens continue to transpire moisture through their leaves in winter. If the ground is too dry or their roots aren’t firmly established, then enough moisture can’t get to the leaves and they shrivel and die. Winter winds also dry out the leaves compounding the problem.

To protect your broadleaved evergreens, mulch the base of the plants well with bark mulch or wood chips now to insulate the roots. Give your shrubs a deep watering and block the winter winds with burlap. The key with burlap is to not wrap your shrubs, but to create a wind screen. If the burlap touches the leaves, it can wick moisture away from them and cause even more damage. Instead, drive 4 stakes around your plant, run chicken wire around the stakes and attached burlap to the wire.

Now if you planted your evergreens specifically to look at them in winter when little else is green, wrapping them defeats the purpose. Another solution is to apply an anti-desiccant spray. These sprays create a non-toxic, waxy layer that coats the leaves and reduces the amount of drying. Spray when air temperatures are above 40F, now and again in mid winter during a warm spell, to insure protection.

From the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio.