Winter Damage on Evergreens

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
As hard and fast as spring is coming on, it’s easy to forget we did have two brushes with with near zero temperatures this last winter. Those two events were enough to cause significant leaf browning and/or drop to several of our common evergreens trees and shrubs. It is still a bit early to know how bad these plants were hurt but in most cases, they will eventually fully recover.
In this case, recovery might not be exactly what you expect it to mean. We mentioned this issue a few weeks ago but based on the inquiries we’ve gotten in the Extension office, it’s worth some additional discussion.

Specifically, the plants with leaves or needles that browned off will not turn bright green again, so depending on the species, it could take as long as a few months before the affected needles or leaves finally drop away to be replaced with new ones.

There isn’t much we can do for needle trees such as pines except be patient. Trying to prune away the damage would not leave enough branch structure in place for the tree to recover.

However, you can go ahead and prune away some of the damage on broadleaf species like hollies and azaleas, or on plants with scale-like leaves such as junipers and some cedar species. Proceed with caution as it is very helpful to know a bit about the specific growth characteristics of this group of plants to avoid pruning mistakes. For example, azaleas bloom on last year’s growth, so pruning them now will eliminate blooms for this spring. Contact the Payne County Extension Office if you have questions on specific plants.

Evergreen plants are also subject to damage from drought. Here’s your reminder that we are in one. As this column is being written, it’s almost 80 degrees and the wind is blowing at 30 mph. Evergreen plants must have adequate moisture in situations like this. Keep your eye on the sky and irrigate these plants as needed if we fail to get timely spring rains.

On a different topic, consider joining the Payne County Master Gardeners for their
next Tuesday Gardening Series class on Butterfly gardening and seed starting. This free program will be held at The OSU Botanic Garden’s Educational Building on March the 14th at 6pm.

For more information on this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.

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