Winter burn has been an especially common complaint among area gardeners in recent years. Evergreen foliage turns brown at the tips, and the browning then spreads inward. In severe cases, the entire plant can die.

Unusually warm autumns can contribute to the problem, as they delay the onset of dormancy and leave plants vulnerable when freezing temperatures rapidly settle in. UW-Extension’s Laura Jull offers tips to prevent winter burn as the summer winds down:

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  • A key factor in avoiding winter burn is root development. To encourage well-developed roots, avoid planting evergreens later than early fall.
  • Take care where you plant your evergreens — locations that expose them to winter winds and intense sunshine can contribute to winter burn, as both wind and sun can dry out the plants.
  • Keep evergreens well-watered and mulch them appropriately to protect their roots.
  • Do not prune them the late summer or fall, as it can encourage new growth that is susceptible to damage
  • Similarly, avoid quick-release, high-nitrogen fertilizers in late summer and fall, as these can encourage new growth and delay dormancy.
  • Protect your evergreens through the winter using burlap, canvas or other materials to create barriers against the sun and wind. Your local garden center can offer tips on how to construct these barriers and what materials work best.

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