Winter Damage & Evergreen Trees: Here’s What You’ll Need to Do

Now that the worst of the winter is behind us, you’ll notice so much life and new growth in your garden. While that may be the case, not every tree will happily bounce back without any problems – if you had a colder-than-average winter, it’s possible that some of your evergreen garden trees may be suffering from winter damage. How can you tell? And what should you do about it? Here’s everything you need to know:


What is Winter Burn?

The most common form of winter damage to evergreen trees, winter burn usually shows in the form of brown leaf tips. In more severe cases, entire leaves, or even the tree itself, may turn brown and die. This is usually only fully apparent in the spring – your tree may look perfectly healthy and green up until temperatures start to rise, before symptoms of winter burn suddenly become visible.

The main cause of winter burn is water loss over the winter. Since evergreen trees don’t lose their leaves over the winter, their leaves continue to transpire, which uses up water. However, when the ground is frozen, tree roots aren’t able to absorb enough moisture. The winter sun combined with strong winds will dry out that tree even more.


What Should You Do if Your Tree Has Winter Burn?

If your tree is established, chances are that it’ll recover on its own, especially if the winter burn is mild. This is even more so the case for native trees, such as the Queensland Bottle Tree or the Grass Tree.

However, if you suspect that some of your branches have died back, give the bark a little scratch to reveal the tissue beneath. If this is green, then that branch is still alive. If it’s brown and brittle, then that branch has died and can be pruned away.


How to Protect Your Evergreen Garden Trees From Winter Burn

There are a few things that you can do to protect your evergreen trees from winter burn, with the most important being to mulch them. Do this in the autumn, applying a thick layer of an organic mulch around your trees. Water them before you mulch, and then again after. The mulch will hold onto this moisture, slowly releasing it into the soil to provide a consistent and long-lasting moisture source.

If your evergreen trees are in an exposed area of your garden, meaning that they have to deal with strong winds and the winter sun, you may want to consider physically wrapping them. This is even more important for tender, tropical-loving trees, such as citrus trees. You can use fleece, burlap, or even an old blanket from your house.

If you plan on adding more evergreens to your garden this season, spring is the best time to get planting. This will give your trees the rest of the season to establish, setting them up well for the following winter.



Many aren’t aware of winter burn until it affects their own garden trees. If you’ve had a colder-than-average winter, which many places around the world are now experiencing, keep an eye on your evergreens to ensure that they make it into spring without any problems.


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