As the leaves fall and the temperatures dip ever closer to that all-important frost point at night, it’s time to think about covering your shrubs for the fall and winter. Evergreens, young trees, and roses are susceptible to damage from several threats during the winter, and now is the time to consider your options for protecting them.

Sunscald and Frost Cracking

It may seem counterintuitive that the sun would be a problem, but winter sun can cause damage to trees that are young, newly planted or have thin bark (like fruit trees or birch). For these delicate trees, the warm sun of the day followed by extremely cold temps at night can cause bark to crack. Protect the trunks of these trees with commercial tree wrap or light-colored material to keep the temperature of the bark more consistent.


Arborvitae or newly planted shrubs can also be damaged by winter sun, resulting in bleaching or brown spots in the spring. The warm sun can cause transpiration (water loss) or even stimulate cellular activity during the day, only to be followed by very cold temperatures at night. Since frozen soil traps a tree’s roots, they’re unable to replace the lost water from the day. To protect against sunscald, wrap the shrubs in burlap or a similar protective material, or use pine boughs from another source (like an old Christmas tree put to good use) to form a more natural-looking sun/wind barrier.

Heavy Snow and Ice Damage

The weight of heavy snow and layers of ice can cause branches to break. Feel free to dust off heavy snow, but be careful of trying to remove ice, as it may cause more damage than letting it melt on its own. What you can do is tie together delicate branches or the leads of arborvitae to provide more support when the thick snow arrives.


Salt Damage

Road salt doesn’t just damage cars and roads, but also any plants in the line of fire from snow plows or salt runoff. Again, wrapped burlap or other materials can protect from the salty spray.


Animal Damage

Deer and rodents love to nibble on bark, twigs, and foliage throughout the winter, and deer cause extra damage to tree bark when rubbing their antlers against them. Many people use mesh cloth or plastic tree guards to protect their tree trunks. You can also try repellents that make their otherwise-tasty plants seem unpalatable. The U of MN has specific recommendations for how to install these animal deterrents.


Most strong, hardy, established shrubs and trees will survive the winter just fine on their own, but if your shrubs and trees are newly planted, delicate in nature, near a busy road, or exposed to strong winds, you should consider extra protection. Contact the pros at Land Concepts Inc. for more information on which plants to cover and with what materials. We look forward to helping you!