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After this harsh winter, do your plants look like this?…




Or like this?…




What Happened?

Brown needles/leaves on evergreens turn brown because the plants continue to use and lose water through their leaves even when the ground is frozen. At times in the winter, evergreens are unable to take up water, and therefore, with the help of drying winds, the needles turn brown.

Disease, salt or other stressful growing situations such as drought can also cause evergreens to turn brown.

Animal damage (bottom photo): Mice, voles and rabbits debark branches of shrubs and trunks of young trees. Sometimes they will girdle the plant (completely chew around the entire branch or trunk), which may cause the plant to eventually die.

What Should You Do?

Yews and Boxwoods, trim off brown tips of branches now.

Spruces and Pines, wait until you see new growth and then prune out dead as needed.

Water plantings especially during dryer periods.

Mulch plantings around the root zone with 2 inches of bark mulch. Keep mulch away from trunks.

Replace the plant if the damage is too severe. If you scratch the bark of a branch and do not see green or if there aren’t any swollen buds present, the plant is mostly likely dead.


Wisconsin winters can be very hard on your landscaping. Protecting your plants and hardscape now can prevent damage and save time and money in the spring.  Here are some simple TIPS to get a step ahead of Mother Nature and those hungry critters. 



·     Deer and Rodent Protection:  Build a wire cage around trees and shrubs they prefer, such as Japanese Yews, Burning Bushes and Korean Spicebushes.  Secure stakes in the ground around the plant and attach chicken wire or hardware cloth to them.


·     Winter Burn Protection:  Harsh, drying winds and sun scald can increase moisture loss, causing evergreens like Dwarf Alberta Spruce and Boxwood to turn brown and eventually die.  Wrap the evergreens loosely in burlap, or if you rather see them during the winter, spray an anti-desiccant on to help seal in moisture.





·     Water Your Plants:  Make sure your plants have adequate moisture.  Give evergreens and newly planted trees and shrubs a good drink of water before the ground freezes.  When you’re finished, don’t forget to take in the garden hose and turn off the water to prevent water pipes from bursting.


·     Protect Groundcovers and Tender Perennials:  Cover Pachysandra, Vinca, and newly planted perennials with evergreen boughs to help insulate the ground, prevent frost heaving, and protect the plants from drying winds and sunlight.




·     Protect Plants from Heavy Snow:  In general, heavy snows on plants should be left alone.  Knocking the snow off can cause more damage to the plants.  You may want to tie the top branches of Arborvitaes with a wide strapping to prevent them from bending over from heavy snows.


·     Apply Safer Ice Melt Products:  There are alternative ice melts to rock salt, like Morton’s Safe-T-Plus, that are safer for your plants and paving surfaces, minimizing damage to concrete and joints. 

Wandsnider Landscape Architects

We strive to create beautiful outdoor environments for your enjoyment. Inviting livable spaces that capture your vision and add value to your home.


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