Updated: Feb 8
We tend to assume that evergreens are so hardy that they have no problem facing the worst that a Pennsylvania winter can throw at them. While these beautiful trees and shrubs stay vibrantly green and don’t share the same fate as deciduous trees when the temperatures plunge, it doesn’t mean that they can’t benefit from - or sometimes even need - a little bit of love and care to look their best. Giving a bit of attention to your evergreens, especially before the difficult winter season, will reward you with strong and healthy plants that last a lifetime. A bit of seasonal effort is all that you need to have your evergreens looking healthy for longer.
WHAT'S UNIQUE ABOUT EVERGREENS?
The key difference with evergreens is in the name: no matter the season, these trees and shrubs keep the same distinctive color, instead of dropping their foliage in the freezing temperatures. The benefit is that these plants can harvest sunshine to fuel them all year, instead of hibernating like other plants. While this adaptation brings lots of benefits to the plant that give it a competitive edge to surviving, it can also make them vulnerable. With winter winds, cold temperatures, and sun exposure, the needles of your evergreens can be left vulnerable to moisture loss that they can’t regain until temperatures warm up in the spring. To combat this, your evergreens will need lots of water in their roots to store up the reserves that they need to photosynthesize all winter successfully, and should be protected against damage that they might not have the resources to recover from while in a deep freeze. Understanding how your evergreens can be susceptible to damage and stress in the cold will help you to protect your plants. Healthy plants look better and require only a little bit of effort to maintain, but can save lots of work in the long term.
TIPS TO PROTECT YOUR EVERGREENS FOR THE WINTER
Deep and Thorough Watering: You’ll want to help your plants to absorb as much water as they possibly can before winter arrives so that they have the hydration they need to meet their winter demands. Water your evergreens deeply and thoroughly all summer and well into the fall until the ground freezes to overwinter your evergreens successfully.
Provide Mulch Ground Cover: A generous layer of mulch at the base of your evergreen will help create that well-watered foundation your plants need, as it locks in moisture and temperature regulates. Mulch will make sure that the root base freezes more gradually when the cold weather settles in, helping the plant to adjust and absorb water all through the fall. If we experience any warm spells during the winter, you can be more confident that your evergreen can cope with the freeze and thaw by keeping temperatures a bit more consistent around the roots.
Lay down a thick layer of mulch, but keep it away from the point where the trunk meets the soil. By keeping a foot of space you can help to discourage any nibbling rodents from eating the bark of your evergreen.
Covering Up: Newly planted evergreens and some smaller shrubs are still sensitive and will need a little bit of extra help to brave the coldest temperatures and winds of winter. Use tree wraps to make a sheltering windbreaker around these tender evergreens. You can purchase tree wraps at our garden centre, or DIY with chicken wire and poles. Whatever method you use, make sure it doesn’t suffocate the plant while providing shelter. These coverings offer the added benefit of keeping nibbling pests away and damaging road salts off of the most vulnerable parts of your evergreens.
Spray Anti-Desiccants: These sprays help to prevent the loss of water from your evergreens by sealing the moisture into their needles. There are even biodegradable options with natural ingredients available to keep you, your family, and your evergreens safe. For our Lehigh Valley winters you’ll want to opt to spray twice (once in November and again in February), while areas that are milder only need to spray once.
Pest Control: Pests that like to eat evergreens are a threat to your plants, whether it’s deer that snack on their needles or rodents that chew on bark. Neither is good for your plant, and over the winter your evergreen will be even vulnerable as their ability to heal is reduced while the temperatures are freezing. Avoiding damage from pests is the best way to defend your evergreens. Cover your plants up and use mulch as a first defense that prevents pests from accessing your evergreens. If that’s not enough against persistent pests, like deer, opt for deterrent sprays, available at our garden center.
We imagine that our gorgeous evergreens are hardy enough to survive practically anything because they stay so vibrantly green all year, but these plants could use our help to be looking their best. For a long-lived evergreen that thrives and looks spectacular in all seasons, these are some very simple and low-effort steps to take to keep them in their best condition.