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Tree damage in winter can occur from a wide range of cold related problems. However, extreme temperature fluctuations and rapid drops in temperature can be some of the most damaging. Trees prefer a period of acclimation and thus favor slow warming and cooling trends in weather. Extended periods of mild weather cause trees to resume growth. When warmer weather is followed by rapid drops in temperature, tree damage such as frost crack or frost injury can occur.

Winter Burn

Another common problem caused by extreme temperature changes is called sunscald or winter burn. This typically affects boxwood, holly, rhododendron, and most coniferous species. Winter burn is caused by dehydration and symptoms include brown or scorched tips of leaves or needles. Prevention includes deep watering plants before the ground freezes, and continuing to water when temperatures remain above freezing and there is no rain. You may also choose to contact your arborist about an anti-desiccant treatment.

What are anti-desiccants?

Anti-desiccants (such as Wilt-Pruf ©) are compounds that, when applied correctly, slow the loss of water from plants. They work by creating a thin barrier over the leaf locking-in moisture. Anti desiccants are especially beneficial at times when roots are unable to take up sufficient water due to a lack of available ground moisture.

Tree Injury from De-icing

Plants exposed to salt used on icy roads can experience leaf scorch and branch dieback. Areas with soil that doesn’t drain well are more likely to experience problems. Plants located in well-drained soil will fare better and recover faster. Take caution when considering planting locations near roads that don’t drain well.

To minimize winter tree damage, start by selecting hardy species and planting in areas conducive to good plant health. Use caution when applying late season fertilizers to allow plants to prepare for cold temperatures. Avoid high nitrogen based fertilizers in favor of bio-stimulants (such as DIEHARD™ BioRush®).
Keep trees and shrubs watered properly during periods of low precipitation and use mulch to help retain moisture and insulate tree roots. For more information on tree health and preservation, contact the certified arborists at Tree Tech. Visit www.TreeTechinc.net today or call 888-873-3832 to schedule a free arborist site inspection. We are a year round tree service company in Massachusetts, serving the area for over 25 years.

1 comment

  • Mia Boyd

    Thanks for talking about tree damage caused by an early winter freeze; that was definitely a problem here where I live. It seemed like winter just came too early. It ruined quite a few of my trees. It seems like it’s time to have them removed now, seeing as they’re past the point of being able to be repaired.

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