Drying of Evergreen Trees and Shrubs

We dry herbs and veggies from the garden, right?  So, wouldn’t we want to be open minded when it comes to drying of all plants in the landscape?  Not so much for the woody plants, especially evergreens.  If they experience excessive moisture loss, they show up as browned out or even killed stems in the spring.  Annual food crops are designed by Mother Nature to dry out and be used later; food dehydrators simply facilitate the process and make it convenient.  Plants such as yews, arborvitae, euonymous, holly, Oregon hollygrape and boxwood, though, are prone to losing moisture from their leaves and stems via the cold, drying winds of winter.  Unlike tomatoes, rosemary and oregano, these plants are perennial and are intended to remain for many years in the landscape.

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So, how can we prevent this type of damage?  First, make sure that these vulnerable species are well watered going into winter.  Like the lawn and other plants, the soil should be moist, not soggy or dry.  Second, consider installing wind screens to reduce the impact of drying winds.  These should be placed about 4 feet away, facing the direction of the prevailing winds.  Third, apply an anti-desiccant product such as Wilt Pruf, Folio Cote, Dwax, Forever Green or Envy.  These products are basically a light horticultural wax that functions to create barrier on the leaf surfaces and reduce moisture loss, much like using lip balm and hand lotion in the winter to prevent chapped lips and rough hands.  Typically, the products are broken down by ultraviolet light and last about 6 weeks, so applications made on or near Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentine’s Day (or any other memorable time markers) will work well to protect evergreens.

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As with any other product that is sprayed onto a plant in the landscape, it’s wise to read and follow label directions.  One important instruction to note and follow is to apply the formulation when temperatures are above freezing, so that the liquid has a chance to dry on the leaves before it turns to icy wax, which would be much less effective.

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John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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