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How to Repair Winter Plant Damage

While winter can enhance the garden’s beauty, you plants could encounter some winter damage. There are numerous ways a plant may be harmed in a brutal winter climate. We have some pointers on finding the damage and fixing it below. Remember that you can also follow our guide on protecting your plants against winter weather before it becomes an issue.

Winter Damage to Plants


Winter weather that is cold, windy, and wet can hurt trees, shrubs, and garden structures like trellises. This damage can be avoided by improving shelter, staking plants, mulching, wrapping pots, and carefully matching plants to places. 

However, you can miss a few areas, or the weather is extreme, and your plants get damaged by the freeze. These damaged plants cannot always be saved, but there are treatments for frozen plants. 

Can a frozen plant be saved? The solutions below can work on some, yet the methodology depends upon the situation. You don’t have anything to lose by treating freeze damage to plants, and you may be shocked by the revival of your favourite plant.

How do plants protect themselves from winter damage?

Plants can often survive frost and snow in winter without any damage. Bark can act as insulation for the living water-conductive tissues in the same way that water pipes are lagged to prevent water freezing within cells. Sugars and amino acids that lower the freezing point of cell contents can also accumulate in some plants as “anti-freeze.”

An effective mechanism many plants have is the ability to allow their cell contents to remain liquid at below freezing point. For this to take place, the plants need to have been through several cold days before any frost or snow. This is why even hardy plants can be damaged by sudden frost.

Signs of winter damage

What is winter damage? The effects appear differently depending on the variety of the plant and how much exposure it received. Sometimes it’s just damage to the foliage that causes discolouration and cold burned leaf tips. In other instances, damage to plants extends down to the crown structure or roots. The most challenging type to recover from is this one.

The issues arise when the plant’s cells freeze, resulting in a cellular shift that alters the plant’s tissue for life. Moving water from cells is one way that plants defend themselves against frozen crystals inside the tiny membranes that explosively tear the cell’s makeup. Because the plant is also prevented from absorbing moisture by this response, the signs of damage can also appear to be the same as dehydrated plants. 

Bent or broken limbs

Broken or bent branches are indications that the plant, tree, or shrub has become covered in a lot of ice or snow over the winter. You can gently remove heavy snow from branches if you notice this. However, branches that may have frozen over should be avoided. If removal is attempted, these may become brittle and suffer additional damage. Always keep an eye on upright evergreen and deciduous trees, as they are more likely to break or bend their branches when heavy snow compacts the branches and leaves during the winter.


To help your plant recover from this, remove any diseased branches by pruning them. Even though it may take months, many drooping branches heal on their own. To assist the tree in realigning itself, you can stake and tie branches, but remove the ties as the tree grows to prevent girdling. If the central leader is broken, the tree may need to be replaced in some cases.

Rodent Damage

When the winter is especially cold and there is a lack of food, animals and rodents will turn to your trees and plants for food. Smaller rodents will tunnel down and feed at ground level, and rabbits will target the bark at the base of your tree, particularly young, vulnerable trees. The entire tree may die if enough bark is removed. The removal of bark from the base of trees and any plant footprints in the soil around them are clear indicators of this.

There is not much you can do but allow the tree to heal and prevent further damage. Fortunately, this is a simple issue that can be avoided in the future. Mice like to conceal in lengthy grass, weeds or mulch heaps, so keep a 1-2 foot sweep around your trees and plants weed-and sans grass. Mulching is a great solution, but be careful not to pile it directly on top of your plants’ roots.

Wrapping a wire screen around any susceptible plant, tree, or shrub provides additional protection. To stop animals from digging under the fence, secure the wrap with wire and bury some of the wire below the ground line.

Root Damage

Even the hardiest varieties of plants can have their roots become unable to absorb water when the ground freezes. Causing the plant to die back due to a lack of moisture. Flowers and fruit can also be damaged by late spring frosts. 

Plants may initially appear healthy, but as the weather warms up, they suddenly turn brown or silvery-green in colour. Suggesting the plant will most likely die because the root system became frozen or damaged during the cold winter months.

Winter Sunscald

Winter sunscald is one of many problems established trees can handle that newly planted trees are more susceptible to. Cracks and other damage to the bark tissue can be caused by extreme temperature fluctuations (bright winter sun followed by a rapid chill at night). The inner, or “heartwood,” remains exposed to the elements as the dead bark decays. An extended, sunken, or dead area in the bark can indicate this, particularly on the southwest side of the trunk. There is not much you can do but allow the tree to heal and prevent further damage. 

When you try to prevent this from happening, every gardener has a different approach. However, we have discovered that burlap or other tree-wrapping materials can be used to wrap the trunk of newly planted thin-barked trees for two years after planting.

Winter Burn: What Is It? How to Treat Evergreen Winter Burn 

In the spring, gardeners may observe brown to rust spots on some of their needled and evergreen plants. The foliage and needles are dead and seem to have been scorched in a fire. Winter burn is the name of this issue.

During the chilly winter months, the dehydrated plant tissues cause damage. In evergreens, winter burn is the result of transpiration, a natural process. It will take some planning on your part to prevent winter burn, but it will be worth it to preserve your plant’s health and appearance.

Don’t be impatient, some damage can be superficial and regrowth will follow in time. Evergreens are often damaged at the growth tips leaving the stems and foliage beneath healthy. To really see the extent of the damage, wait until mid-spring before pruning out the damage. To encourage quicker growth, try adding some garden compost and slow release fertiliser. In the chances of the weather turning cold again, protect the plant following our advice here.

Chris Bonnett, a gardening expert for The Express

Winter colour of evergreens 

Changes in colour from the usual green to grey, yellow, blue, purple, bluish-green, brown, and bronze on leaves or needles can be signs of winter damage. Plants that are frequently damaged by harsh winter weather include those that suffer from drought stress and low temperatures. When springtime temperatures return to normal, the colours of the foliage frequently return to normal.

What is Winter Burn?

At the point when plants accumulate sun-powered energy during photosynthesis, they discharge water as a feature of the interaction. The leaves and needles lose water through this process, which is known as transpiration. Dehydration occurs when a plant is unable to replenish the water it has lost due to drought or heavily frozen ground. Winter consumption of evergreens can make the demise of the plant in extreme cases, however, it no doubt results in a foliar loss.

Evergreen Winter Damage

On evergreens, winter burn manifests itself as dry, brown to reddish foliage or needles. Some foliage might be impacted, with regions on the radiant side generally seriously harmed. This is because the sun’s beams escalate the photosynthetic movement and cause more water misfortune. The buds on some plants, like camellias, may fall off when the new terminal growth dies. Plants that are stressed or that were planted too late in the season are particularly vulnerable. The most severe evergreen winter damage also occurs in regions where plants are subjected to drying winds.

Preventing Winter Burn

New plants should be moved out of windy areas and given adequate water as they grow. When soil is not frozen, it absorbs more water during the winter. A burlap wrap may benefit some plants by protecting them from drying winds and reducing excessive transpiration. There are anti-transpirant sprays on the market, but their effectiveness in preventing winter burns is limited.

Winter Burn Treatment

There is almost no you can do to treat consumed plants. Most plants won’t be seriously harmed, however, they might require a little assistance getting sound once more. In a well, properly apply food and water to fertilize them. After waiting until new growth has begun, remove the dead stems. Mulch should be lightly applied around the plant’s root base to help keep the soil moist and prevent weeds from competing with it. Before beginning any treatment for winter burns, it is best to wait to see if the damage is permanent. Consider erecting a windbreak of some kind if winter burns in evergreens persist in your area. Eliminate trees that surrender to evergreen winter harm before they become magnets for bugs and illness.

Updated on November 10, 2023

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