Winter Injury on Broad-Leaved Evergreens

Winter injury on broad-leaved plants may be one of the biggest stories of Spring 2015 but don’t give up and remove the damaged plant just yet.  Leaves injured by winter desiccation and cold may be an immediate cosmetic problem but look beyond this to the stems instead. If the stems are green on the surface or bright green under the bark when you nick the bark with your finger, then the stem tissue has not been killed and buds should produce new foliage as old foliage is shed.  Checking the buds themselves to see if they are healthy and green is another way to determine whether a branch or twig has suffered winter injury.

On broad-leaved evergreen plants like hollies, euonymus and skip laurel, the state of winter-injured foliage often does not matter relative to plant viability. What does matter is whether or not stems are still alive to produce new growth. On rhododendrons, the case often seems to be different in  that curled leaves that don’t return to a natural shape after the weather warms up (and then start to turn brown/reddish brown), are often indicative of injured stem tissue as well. Be sure to check for bright green tissue under the bark before pruning to be sure you actually need to remove the branch but if death of stem tissue is determined, prune down to the healthiest tissue that you find, just above a bud.  The same method of pruning away winter-injured stems and twigs may be used on most other broad-leaved woody plants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *