Wind Damage to Plants & What To Do

After a long harsh winter here on long island, damage to your trees and shrubs is to be expected. This past season was one of the worst we have seen in years and everyone’s landscape has that same brown cast to everything.

Here is what causes this damage.

Wind Desiccation: Wind desiccation occurs when trees and shrubs are exposed to dry, cold sweeping winds. Moisture from stems and leaves are drawn out of the leaf and stem tissue, causing cells in the leaves and stems to break down. The results of this are leaves that have a brown cast on the whole leaf or on certain sections of the leaf. Plants that are constantly exposed to winds should be given protection by applying an anti-desiccant such as wilt pruf which we use here at the nursery or constructing a wind barrier which could be made of burlap in late November.

Leaf scorch/reflective damage: Leaf scorch/reflective damage occurs when plant parts not covered by snow are exposed to reflective sunlight from the snow. Keep in mind we had snow on the ground almost all winter. The light intensity causes a burn on exposed leaves and needles. Again, applying wilt pruf will help protect from leaf scorch.

Salt Damage: Salt damage can occur from municipalities and snow contractors applying salt to roadways. This can damage plants in two ways. First, when salt and snow melt, passing cars create a spray which coats leaves and stems. The salt draws the moisture out of the cell tissue causing brown spots on broadleaves or brown tips on needled evergreens. Secondly, salt works its way into the root systems of plants and causes damage to root hairs, which are vital to nutrient and water uptake. This is also what happened to many homeowners on the south shore when sandy hit. Once it gets warm this spring, hose down your plants and soak the soil thoroughly to dilute salt buildup from the winter.

Now what do I do? Your first reaction is that plants are dead and need to be removed. Although we would love to sell you a bunch of new plants we would rather be honest with you and tell you that many of your trees and shrubs are actually alive and will bounce back. Be patient…Many plants that have winter burn need to have their first flush of growth (new leaves emerge). This happens anywhere from mid-may to mid-June, depending on the variety. At this point you will be able to tell what needs to be pruned and what plants are not going to make it.

The answer: You should absolutely apply bio-pak plus fertilizer in late fall which is critical for winter survival. The fertilizer works its way into Bio Pak Plusthe root system and is available for the plant when the plant actively starts growing again. Preparation in the fall will be your best step in making sure winter damage is minimal and your plants bounce back faster after a severe winter. You can also apply bio-pak plus right now to help bring those plants back to their beauty and color. Remember, you just have to wait!!!

These are some of plants to expect winter damage on:

  • Skip laurel * Cherry laurel * Holly * Rhododendron * Azalea * Japanese pieris (andromeda)
  • Leucothoe * Skimmia * Boxwood * Various pines, junipers, cypress * Leyland cypress
  • Yews * Arborvitae
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