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How to Care for Your Trees in the Winter

Winter Tree Care

While the snow looks pretty on the trees, the winters are trying for trees. The cold weather dries out the leaves, damages the bark, and injures branches, flower buds, and roots. Humans contribute to the issues trees face as the salt for roads and sidewalks damages soil health. Because of food shortages in the winter, animals tend to feed on the tree bark and twigs, causing more damages. Your Pittsburgh arborists at Horhut Tree Experts suggest these tips for caring for common winter tree problems.

Winter Burn

Winter burn is the technical term for the bleaching or browning of evergreens. There are a few things that can cause this:

  • The sun and wind cause trees to lose water which dehydrates the roots, browning plant tissue.
  • Sunny days warm the tree tissues, starting up cellular activity, but when the sun sets and the temperature drops, the activated tissue dies.
  • The leaves’ chlorophyll is destroyed during the sunny winter days. Trees are not able to resynthesize when the temperature is below 28 degrees Fahrenheit. This results in bleaching.
  • The cold temperatures also cause injury or even death to the tree tissue.

To prevent winter burn, you can use burlap or a similar material to create a barrier around the south, southwest, or windward sides of your trees. Be sure to leave the top open to allow for sun and light.

Frost Heaving

This occurs when the soil freezes and thaws repeatedly. Frost heaving then pushes the small, shallow-rooted plants, exposing them to wind.

To combat frost heaving, use some mulch as it retains moisture and acts as an insulator. However, if the plant falls victim to frost heaving, replant it once soil thaws.

Salt Damage

Salt damage is almost inevitable. The salt harms soil which threatens trees and shrubs. The damage can start subtle as the salt migrates to the stems, buds, and roots which can then cause severe decline as the salt disfigures the leaves and stunts tree growth.

Though it’s almost impossible, by salting right after shoveling or using calcium chloride-based deicing salts are ways to minimize the damage.

Winter Drought

Trees struggle to draw water from frozen ground. Winter drought is extremely common, especially among evergreens.

In the fall, make sure to mulch and water around your trees to compensate. To check your progress, dig down 6” deep and form a ball of soil. If the ball stays a ball, your tree has enough water.


Mice, rabbits, and other rodents eat tree bark to survive in the winter. This exposes the tree base which can lead to tree injury or death. Deer eat the tree stems and branches.

Metal mesh and spraying a repellant that contains thiram helps protect against small animals. By dipping heavy raps into the same repellant and hanging them near trees, you should be able to protect against deer.

Dead/Broken Branches

The snow and ice may look picturesque, but they may actually cause the tree branches to break.

You’ll want to be sure to gently brush off the snow. However, if the branches begin to pose a danger, you will want to reach out to a professional to remove branches.

Get Help from Your Local Tree Company

The arborists of Horhut Tree Experts know what is best for your Pittsburgh tree care. The woody plant specialists provide top-notch tree service to help your trees thrive. Contact Horhut Tree Experts today by calling (412) 855-2703 or visiting their website to request a quote. You’ll want to experience the Horhut difference!

Jaime Horhut