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Beware the Effects of Winter Drought

Lack of snowfall can damage plants. 

effects of winter damage featured
Source: La Rosa Landscape

Trees, shrubs and perennials rely on the snow as their primary insulator and protector during the winter months. A layer of snow helps to prevent the ground from freezing, protecting the root systems of plants. Without snow to protect them, plants can become more stressed and susceptible to disease.

Winter drought doesn’t just affect the visible parts of plants, such as the leaves. It also impacts the roots because they can’t absorb enough moisture to keep the plant healthy. And a lack of insulating snow enables frost to penetrate more deeply into the soil.

Winter winds, combined with dry soil conditions, can cause plants to dry out or can cause “winter burn.” This makes them more susceptible to insects, diseases, leaf damage and stunted growth. Often the effects of winter burn aren’t noticeable until late spring. 

Evergreens are especially susceptible to winter burn because they don’t go dormant like deciduous trees do. More than other types of trees and plants, evergreens need a steady supply of water to keep from drying out during the winter.

Other plants that are prone to damage from lack of moisture during the winter months include trees, shrubs and perennials planted within the last several years as well as lawns that were cut very short or were under-watered during the fall.

What can you do to help prevent plant damage during low-snowfall seasons like the one we’re currently facing?

  • Maintain healthy soil, rich in organic matter, which is better able to hold onto moisture during the winter months,
  • Provide a two- to four-inch cover of organic mulch around plants and trees to help them retain soil moisture,
  • Water your plants once or twice a month during winter, and
  • When spring arrives, watch for early signs of insect or disease problems. If you catch these problems early, you can usually fix them.

Contact our La Rosa horticulturists for tips on protecting your plants during the rest of this winter.