Protecting Your Trees and Shrubs For the Winter

Trees and shrubs

Trees and shrubsThe fact that our winters are mild here in the North Texas region doesn’t mean your trees and shrubs are completely impermeable to cold-related damage. Harsh winds and frosts can still be detrimental, even when they’re short-lived.

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Avoiding Potential Problems:

Fall Cleanup

Late fall is a great time to do a bit of pruning, not only due to the pleasant weather, but as a preparatory measure before winter truly sets in. Most deciduous trees and shrubs will have lost the majority of their foliage by late autumn. This maximizes visibility, offering you a great opportunity to inspect the branches and stems for damage.

Preventative pruning is a critical step in setting up your foliage for springtime success. Removing broken or diseased appendages prevents any opportunity for overlooked problems to quietly spread throughout the winter.

Additionally, any debris that’s been building up amidst your shrubs or at the base of your trees should be gotten rid of before the first winter frost. We all know that a small amount of organic matter is healthy for your topsoil, as it breaks down and returns vital nutrients to the earth. But too much, left for too long, creates a ripe breeding ground for damaging rot.

This is especially true if an abundance of debris is left to repeatedly freeze and thaw throughout the winter season. While you’ve already got the garden gloves on from pruning your trees and shrubs, go ahead and clear out any excess debris on the ground. Your plants will thank you next spring.

Wind and Sun Damage

Trees and shrubs can incur damage from getting too dry in the winter wind. This is sometimes referred to as a winter drying injury. Younger trees and any breeds with naturally thin bark are especially vulnerable, since they have less natural insulation.

Alternately, bare trees can also experience sun scald when no longer protected by a canopy of foliage. This is a legitimate risk here in Texas, when even the most frigid winter days can still include several hours of direct sunlight.

Burlap sacks, tarps, and trunk tubes are good protectors against drying injuries and sun scald. If you know a wind storm is coming, or if you’re seeing a long stretch of cold yet sunny days, take a moment to wrap your more vulnerable plants. Doing so will keep you a step ahead of nursing damaged vegetation back to health come springtime. 


While they’re known for their hardiness in cold weather, evergreen varieties actually need a bit of extra care in the wintertime. In truly frigid regions, the accumulation of snowfall acts as a protective barrier for the trees’ branches and foliage. But alas, that is a rare phenomenon here in Texas! Thus, they’re especially vulnerable to drying injuries and other wind-related damage.

Keep those tarps handy for extra windy days, as well as a few cords for binding. With conifer-type evergreens (pine, spruce, etc), as well as with younger trees with thinner branches, binding them during heavy storms helps decrease breakage and stripping from strong winter gusts. You also want to water your evergreens a bit more frequently than your other vegetation in the wintertime, to help them- that’s right- stay green.

Watering Practices

Although many plants go dormant in the winter, that doesn’t mean their need for irrigation comes to a full halt. All of your trees and shrubs, not just the evergreens, need continued watering throughout the season.

Here are the 2 most critical factors:
A) Water when the ground temperature is well above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, to avoid freezing.
B) Water deeply, rather than frequently.

Fertilizer Practices

Not all plants need fertilizer during the winter. However, a sudden drop in irrigation and fertilizer can be jarring. Therefore, just as you decrease your watering without fully stopping, you want to decrease your fertilizer applications gradually as well.

As always, the best practice is following the fertilization scheduled outlined for your specific breeds, soil conditions, and climate. Be sure not to fertilize just prior to freezing weather or precipitation.


  • Prune your deciduous trees and shrubs carefully, once they’ve lost enough foliage for you to pinpoint trouble spots that need to be removed.
  • Do a thorough fall cleanup job to dispose of excess debris before winter sets in.
  • Avoid sun scald and drying injuries by wrapping vulnerable plants with tarps, wraps, or burlap during wind storms or long stretches of cold, sunny days.
  • Water your evergreens a bit more often than the rest, and remember that they need protection too despite being winter-hardy.
  • Water less often, yet deeply, but never just prior to a hard freeze.
  • Decrease your fertilizing schedule before completely stopping, so the plants can acclimate to the change.






Janice Nelson

Janice Nelson

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