How to Protect Your Trees and Shrubs for Winter - Tomlinson Bomberger

How to Protect Your Trees and Shrubs for Winter

“Pumpkin Spice” season is in full swing, folks. That means we need to be aware that Winter is right around the corner. With that idea in mind, read some quick tips on how to protect your trees and shrubs from Winter damage.

Tree PruningCertified Arborist Company

This is a really important part of keeping your trees and shrubs healthy, and should be done regularly. Having it done before the uncertainty of Winter storms is even more critical.

The key point here is that you want to be aware of branches that are susceptible to damage. Snow and ice accumulation put the stress of added weight on branches. According to Richard’s Tree Service in Annandale, Virginia, you should “…start by encouraging proper angles: branches that extend upward at 30- to 45-degree angles.” This allows trees to take on some of that weight with enough support to handle the load. It also allows just enough flex in the branch to prevent damage. Removing branches with too much mass (already very heavy) can also be helpful.

Not sure which branches to remove? “It’s always a good idea to hire a certified arborist to get the job done right,” say’s Richard’s. We could not agree more! Contacting a Certified Arborist to get a professional opinion and quote on the work is never a bad idea. Here the old adage holds true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Protecting your trees for winter is a preventive task! Making sure trees are properly pruned before the storms hit ensures they’re better able to withstand the forces put on the tree from the winds and added weight of precipitation.

tree wrappingWrapping Vulnerable Trees

This practice involves a little more elbow-grease on your part as the homeowner. Also, it can look a little silly to some people. But it does go a long way toward protecting your landscape.

Basically, you’re literally wrapping trees up, like in a Winter coat, for the season. Certain trees have thin bark. What happens to these trees is that as sunlight warms them on bright days, it warms up some parts of the tree but not others. This can cause gaping holes to appear in the bark, which is obviously a bad thing.

According to Davey Tree Experts, the type of wrap should match the tree. “Take Damien’s Japanese maple, for example. It’s a tree that loses its leaves in the fall and has thin bark, so the best way to protect it is by wrapping the trunk in a plastic tree guard.”

Other trees benefit from basic burlap, like coniferous (cone-producing) evergreens. There’s two ways to do this. The first option is to lightly wrap the burlap all the way around the tree, and then tie it around at the top, middle, and bottom. Option two is using stakes that are the same size (or taller) than the tree, creating a triangle around the tree, and fastening the burlap around the stakes. This essentially creates a kind of “tent” around the outside of the tree, protecting it from damage caused by cold Winter winds.

Anti-Desiccant Spraystree spraying

In the Winter, high winds or heavy sunshine warming the leaves of an evergreen can cause what’s called “transpiration.” In essence, the moisture is leaving the leaf- or needle-tissue. During Spring, Summer, and Fall, this evaporation of moisture isn’t a big deal – they can simply pull more out of the ground.

In the Winter, however, this process doesn’t function the same way. The ground is frozen, and it’s nearly impossible for that fluid to move up and down the tree the way it needs to for damage to be prevented. So, what are you supposed to do about it?

Basically, anti-desiccant sprays prevent moisture from escaping through the leaf tissue. Think of it like lip balm – it’s a coating on the “green” of the evergreen that holds in the moisture and prevents damage to the plant from the extreme temperatures.

Anti-desiccant sprays are not a “silver bullet” for protecting the trees. These treatments are not 100% guaranteed (nothing is when you’re talking about plants and environmental conditions!), so don’t plan on this as a fool-proof plan. There are environmental factors (the dreaded “Polar-vortex” for example) that can prevent them from working as intended.

Also, they typically have to be done as a series of treatments rather than a single spraying. The weather and temperature dictate the timing of these sprays. Too long between treatments can also create an opportunity for the trees to be damaged.


Just because the thermometer is dropping doesn’t mean that your landscaping is done for the season! Be sure to examine your landscape for potential Winter hazards. If you have questions or would like a free consultation, please Contact Us.