Manage Winter Plant Injury

Certain plants around your landscape may not have survived the harsh cold conditions of winter.

Actually, in most cases, you won't notice the winter damage to your plant material until early spring when they come out of dormancy. Sometimes, it's hard to distinguish winter injury signs from other more common disease and insect damage.

Plants damaged by winter cold will often exhibit browning of the edges of evergreen leaves on azaleas, rhododendrons or even box woods. This situation can also occur on needles of many common evergreens such as yews.

Trees that shed their leaves are not void of winter injury. Actually, the bark may be damaged by the cold conditions. The first sign here is when the bark starts peeling away, especially when the tree begins to grow in the spring and summer.

Freeze cracks are also often noticed in the spring, especially when the sap drips from the wound caused by extreme temperature variation during the winter months. Actually, the tree splits its bark much like a cold glass does when placed in boiling water. With a tree, especially during severe low temperatures, when the bright sun shines on its bark, the tree literally explodes.

In most cases, it takes three factors for a tree to suffer winter injury. These conditions are low freezing temperatures, moderate to high winds and bright sunlight. Without one of these factors, your plants may survive.

If your landscape had all three of the factors I mentioned, you will need to wait until spring to assess the damage. Keep in mind that we can control sunlight and wind factors basically by planting location and wind breaks. Think before you plant next time.

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