Preventing Winter Damage to Rhododendrons and other Broad Leaf Evergreens

2014-11-25 12.23.48The recent deep freeze in Connecticut reminded me of the importance of protecting the evergreens that many of us rely on to dress up our foundations and use as winter interest in garden beds.  Although, these plants are masters at acclimating to our winters by entering dormancy, very low temperatures are damaging to leaves and flower buds.  This can cause wilting, browning/burning of the leaves, and die back, especially in young or new plants.

The reason this happens is drying winds and frozen ground deprive plants of their natural moisture intake.  There are ways to prevent winter burn (desiccation).  One is adequate hydration through the growing season.  A well hydrated plant will help give it the vigor it needs to withstand critical temperatures.  Too many of us stop watering new plants too soon.  It is important to continue to water into late fall, especially during the first year.  Another way to help is to apply adequate mulch.  One to two inches from trunk to drip-line is sufficient.  Also, providing some sort of cover can be helpful if done correctly.  The polar side of the cover can come to the ground but the equator side must stay partially open to the sun.  Covering a shrub on all sides to the trunk can be worse than leaving it uncovered because the sun doesn’t get a chance to warm the soil.

For most of us, covering our shrubs is not practical or beautiful.  So, an anti-desiccant spray (a clear liquid cover) is a great alternative.  It provides a light protective coating to the broad leaf surface slowing the transpiration process, causing the plant retain needed moisture.  If the leaves can hold moisture until spring, it can’t “burn”.  Try to think of it as skin lotion for the leaves.  Please e-mail us or give a call if you have any questions or would like a free consultation to see if this winter treatment is right for your landscape.  aatree911@gmail.com or 203-529-1416

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