Each spring many homeowners find dead or brown foliage on their evergreen plants.
Desiccation or “winter burn” is always a concern for evergreens and broadleaf evergreen shrubs, and results when these 3 situations occur: low soil moisture, blowing winds and freezing temperatures. With these 3 factors in place, evergreens lose moisture through transpiration faster than their roots can replace it from the frozen ground.
The winter of 2013-2014 was one of historic proportions. It had the coldest temperatures and the most snowfall in 100 years. And because of this it has produced the most winter burn I’ve seen in over 25 years in the field.
We will see more trees, shrubs, lawns, vines and ground cover burned than ever before. Examples of these species are as follows: Pines, Spruce, Fir, Arbs, Yews, Boxwood, Euonymus, Holly, Rhododendrons and Boston ivy. Moderate signs of “winter burn” are yellowish to yellow-brownish tips of the needles and leaf margins. In some situations as the “burn” worsens, the coloration moves down the needle or foliage inward towards the branch. And in some situations can ‘burn’ an entire section of the tree, shrub and sections of lawn as well. Damage will be more severe on the side exposed to the sun and wind.
As unsightly as some of our plant material may look as spring approaches it is best to be patient. No immediate action should be taken. These plants still have live buds within the damaged branches. The buds will send out new growth and eventually fill in the damaged areas. Unfortunately, some areas will take years to fill back in. Wait until new growth has emerged before pruning out dead sections. Consider watering in areas around the plants that appear to be dry.
Lawns will probably be affected by the historic winter as well. Low temperatures and extended ice and snow cover can cause disease and even death in certain areas. You may consider fungicide applications this spring to control Gray and Pink snow mold.
For additional information and pictures Google “Winter Burn” or Winter Desiccation”. Or go to www.turf.msu.edu/winterkill-of-turfgrass.