Picea_glauca_Conica_burnAs I drive around Sheboygan, I am seeing parts of evergreens that are every shade but green. This is a common problem for evergreens in our area during most winters. This condition is best known as winter burn and is most extreme this year. The discoloration, ranging in color from yellow to brown, becomes obvious as the weather begins to warm. I am seeing this problem everywhere I look, so do not fret, you are not alone.
What is Winter Burn?
Plants create their own food through the process of photosynthesis. During this process, huge amounts of water evaporate (transpire) from the plant. A large tree can lose hundreds of gallons of water in one day. When the soil is frozen in winter, evergreens cannot replace water lost through transpiration which results in the needles (leaves) drying out and becoming damaged or even dying.
There are three factors that cause an increase in leaf damage:
• South facing sides experience increased heat from the sun and lose water more quickly
• Salt spray from roads and sidewalks can burn the needles
• Increased wind on the north side of the plant can cause the needles to dry out
The damage you see does not mean the plant is dead. Depending on how bad the problem is, your evergreen tree or shrub may bounce back. Patience is the key…the warm spring rains will thaw the ground and give your tree or shrub life-saving water. As long as the branches are still alive, you may see new growth emerge. Give the plant time to recover and then determine if it is worth saving. New growth may cover the brown needles or you may, at this time, choose to selectively prune out the dead needles and branches.
Happy Gardening!