How To Help Your Evergreens Recover From Winter Damage

Evergreen trees and large shrubs are sometimes prone to snow and winter damage. Much of this occurs because the trees aren't fully dormant in the winter, so snow and ice can build up on leaves or needles. The following tips can help you repair your evergreens in the spring so they are healthy and attractive again.

Stopgap Measures

Sometimes you begin to see the damage in winter after it has occurred but before it becomes extensive. When this happens, be proactive to prevent any further damage. If plant is splitting, which sometimes happens when heavy snow builds up on top of an evergreen tree or shrub, wind a rope loosely around the plant to help it hold its shape. You can also brush the snow off by sweeping upward gently with a broom – avoid downward sweeping, which can cause branch breakage.

Wrapping burlap loosely around the evergreen can also protect the plant if winter burn is browning the leaves or needles. Burn is typically caused by cold winter winds. Just make sure you remove the burlap as soon as the temperatures begin to warm.

Timely Pruning

A proper tree pruning can remove most winter-damaged parts of the tree. Wait until mid- to late-spring to prune so that lightly damaged foliage and branches can recover slightly. Otherwise, you may cut off branches that could easily return to health with just a little bit of time.

Begin by trimming out any completely dead branches. These will usually be brittle, not green and supple, and all the foliage or leaves will be dead and dry.

You can also trim back damaged branches to the nearest non-damaged branch section. Just keep in mind that leaves won't grow on the interior bare section of most evergreen branches, so it's better to just remove the entire branch if all the foliage has died.

For severe damage, you may want to hold off on pruning until later in the spring.

Keep In Shape

The right shape will help prevent future damage. Avoid pruning evergreens with a flat top, since snow can collect on this and cause splitting. Instead, opt for a point or a rounded top. It's also a good idea to make the bottom wider than the top, to ensure the entire plant can receive sunlight and water.

A Good Feeding

After you finish pruning, your evergreens will benefit from a dose of general purpose evergreen tree fertilizer. Sprinkle the fertilizer on the ground beneath the canopy of the tree, keeping it 6 inches away from the trunk to avoid burning. Use the amount of fertilizer recommended on the bag for the size of your tree. Follow with a thorough water to force the fertilizer down to the roots. These nutrients will encourage healthy growth and healing from the winter damage.