How to Protect Landscape Plants from a Minnesota Winter

by | Nov 4, 2015 | Market News

Another wonderful Minnesota Fall is coming to an end and Old Man Winter is rapidly approaching.  Now is the time to winterize your landscape.  Some of the items to consider are wrapping young trees, cutting back perennials, mulching tender plants and protecting your plants from animals that love to chew on them during a Minnesota Winter.

Young thin barked trees should be wrapped with a tree wrap before the first snow flies because they are the most susceptible to sun scald.  Maple trees are a common variety affected by this.  On cold winter days, the sun heats up tree bark to the point where cambial activity is stimulated.  If the sun is blocked by a cloud, bark temperature drops quickly, damaging the active tissue. This freeze/thaw cycle can create splits in the bark.  Damage is typically most significant on the south or south west side of the tree.  Wrapping trees with a commercial tree wrap will significantly reduce the chance of sun scald.  It is best to start at the base of the tree and go up to the first branch.  Remember to remove the tree wrap in early spring.

Last winter was a really bad year for winter burn.  It is extremely important to give your evergreens and other plants plenty of water in the fall to help prevent winter burn.   People have a tendency  to stop watering their plants once their irrigation lines are blown out.  Please remember to water your plants, especially new plants and evergreens, until the ground freezes and won’t take any more water.  The winter sun and wind can dry out evergreens and cause winter burn.  You can also wrap burlap around the plants or make a barrier to protect them from the harsh winds.

Do I cut my Perennials back in the fall or spring?  If you like some winter interest, which sedum and ornamental grasses provide,  then wait and cut them back in the spring before new growth emerges.  They can also provide some food for birds, depending on the variety, and the decomposing plants can also help add a layer of protection.  If any of your plants are diseased or insect -infested, it is very important to cut them back in the fall and remove/dispose of all debris.  This will greatly reduce potential problems for the upcoming growing season.  Any plants that are extra tender could benefit from an extra layer of mulch for the winter.  Remember, we are in zone 4 for USDA Plant Hardiness.  Zone 5 and higher is further south (Iowa) and Zone 3 and lower is further North (North of Lake Mille Lacs).  Did you know Alaska has areas that are actually zone 7.  In fact they range from zone 1 to zone 7, Crazy, eh!

Cold temperatures can damage plants in several ways but don’t forget animals can do their fair share of damage as well.  Mice, rabbits, deer and other rodents love to feed on branches and bark in the winter and can cause significant injury to your landscape plants.  You can protect your trees by covering with plastic tree guards and your shrub beds with chicken wire.  There are also repellants that can be used.

Lastly, brighten your landscape with some winter interest. ‘ Tis the season to take your nice pot or planter and install spruce tips and other winter greens to enjoy through the holiday season and into the New Year.  If you have any questions on your landscape or would like to make a decorative holiday pot please stop by Pahl’s and let us help!


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  1. Jennifer Andrews

    Thank you for the post. We had to hire a tree removal service in our old home because the winter was so bad for them. I’ll have to get tree wrap and plastic tree guards to keep them safe this year. Should you use chicken wire around the base of the tree or will that damage it?

    • Chris Kaufenberg

      Thanks for your question Jennifer, using tree wrap is enough you do not need to also use chicken wire.


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