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Repairing Winter Plant Damage

If this winter’s extreme cold weather put your landscaping through the ringer, you’re not alone. Winter poses many challenges for shrubs and plants, such as early cold spells, alternating freeze/thaw cycles, frozen soil and the bright winter sun.

From an evergreen shrub’s burned leaves to the total death of flower and leaf buds, winter can be a devastating season for our plants.

With spring approaching, here’s how to handle some of these common issues:

Winter Burn

When temperatures hit extreme lows, dehydration causes damage to plant tissue and affects a variety of evergreen types. If your evergreen plants have a brownish rust color, the solution is not to prune too early or aggressively. More often than not, new growth will push out the dead tips by late spring or early summer.

Preventative Measures

Anti-desiccants, also called antitranspirants, provide a protective coating to evergreen foliage that reduces the amount of water that escapes. Anti-desiccants are best applied when temperatures are around 40-50 degrees F, with no rainfall in the immediate forecast. Foliage needs to be dry when applied, and the spray needs time to dry afterward.

Frost Heave

Small, shallow-rooted plants can be pushed out of the ground during periods of soil freezing and thawing, which prevents the plants from having contact with the soil. When this happens, first try replanting (plants may not always survive).

Preventative Measures

In the future, plant earlier in the season so plants develop strong root structures. You can also add mulch to help maintain more constant soil temperatures.

Salt Injury

Salt damage appears as brown needles, leaves with burnt-looking edges or branches die back. It may be unavoidable to prevent exposure of your grass and plants to salt. If this happens, flush the area around the plants in early spring by applying two inches of water, over a two to three hour period, and repeat three days later. For dead turf grass, reseeding is not effective.

Preventative Measures

Covering plants with burlap can also protect plants from winter burn, a damaging condition caused by a combination of winter sunlight and depleted soil moisture. Burlap is more effective than plastic because it allows the plant to breathe so air circulates, and heat isn’t trapped

Preventative protection measures/Turf: Use burlap or silt fence on edges of sidewalks or landscape beds to prevent access salt leaching into the soil and exposure to wind damage.

Bent or Broken Limbs

Bending or breakage occurs during heavy snow, ice or high winds. Plants such as junipers, arborvitaes and weak-wooded deciduous trees are affected by this.

The best solution is to prune the broken limbs for a clean cut to reduce any risk of disease. This pruning to reshape the plant can also stimulate new growth in the coming season.

Preventative Measures

Pre-winter season thinning of the branch structures will also reduce the risk of damage during the winter months.  Some cultivars will have to be pruned during the winter months such as oaks and sweet-gum.


Exterior Solutions at Continuum Services

If you found winter temperatures have taken a toll on your landscaping, give Continuum a call today at 248.286.5200 or email us at info@continuumservices.com.

We hold our team to the highest of standards, and are constantly conducting site quality assessments to make sure that all of our properties are exceeding our customer’s expectations.

Our clients come from different industries and thus have different needs when it comes to exterior services solutions. That’s why we create custom plans for all of our clients, including:


  • Landscape Construction Services
  • Landscaping & Grounds Care
  • Turf Management & Fertilization
  • Seasonal Color Display Change-out
  • Landscape Design
  • Shrub & Tree Healthcare
  • Shrub & Tree Protection
  • Snow & Ice Management
  • Power Washing & Cleaning: Parking Decks, Patios, Building Facades & Sidewalks
  • General Retail Maintenance Services