winter injury | TruGreen

Winter Injury

By TruGreen February 2, 2024
snow on landscaping

Even though winter may seem like a quiet time for your trees and grass, they can still be susceptible to injury. Trees are particularly vulnerable to cold weather damage, which can affect their health come springtime. To help nurture your trees and shrubs, you may want to consider tree and shrub care to ensure your foliage flourishes in warm weather and can withstand winter’s chill. 

What Causes Winter Damage?

Low temperatures, frost and dry air can make the winter months a struggle for your exposed plants and trees. Rapid temperature fluctuations and low soil moisture are particularly damaging factors during winter. Here are the worst offenders behind winter damage: 

  • Low temperature: When temperatures drop below a plant’s natural tolerance—especially if it happens suddenly—the plant can struggle. If the sun has warmed a plant or tree bark before a drop in temperatures, you might notice sunscald or frost cracks. Symptoms of temperature-related issues include split bark or brown, black or even dead leaves. Only if the roots are killed will the plant be unable to recover. 
  • Frost: In the fall and spring, humidity in the air combined with near- or below-freezing temperatures results in frost, which can be particularly problematic if the plant is still actively growing. Signs of frostbite include brown or black flowers, buds, leaves or fruit. New leaves and shoots will often twist, curl or wilt in frost conditions. 
  • Dry conditions: Just like our lips and skin can get dry and chapped in the winter, plants can also struggle to find moisture. When the air is dry, plants can struggle to find enough moisture, leading to issues like scorched and dropped leaves, mottling on the leaves, or even death of leaves and twigs. In severe cases, the plant may not recover. 

Tree & Shrub Service Can Help

TruGreen®’s Tree & Shrub services take specific, proven steps to recover from and prevent the impacts of winter injury. You may also want to consider plants that are naturally hardy to the weather conditions in your area, while avoiding those that are particularly susceptible to winter injury. 

Some ways to address winter injury include:  

  • Be patient. Many damaged plants will be slow to recover. 
  • Wait until after the last freeze, usually mid-March, to prune back branches to the green portion to stimulate recovery. 
  • Fertilize your trees and shrubs to provide strength and nourishment as they recover 

Some ways to prevent winter injury include: 

  • Plant trees and shrubs in well-drained soil 
  • Apply mulch and monitor soil moisture in advance of freezing conditions as sufficient moisture early in the cold months can protect the plant throughout the winter. 
  • Install wind breaks to shield plants from winter desiccation. For broadleaf evergreen shrubs, an anti-desiccant treatment going into winter can also help prevent water loss that leads to winter injury. 
  • Opt for a customized TruGreen plan to provide nutrients and protection for your trees and shrubs 

Stop problems before they start by contacting TruGreen about a tailored Tree & Shrub care plan to protect and nourish your outdoor landscape. 


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