Prune Winter-Damaged Evergreens

By University of Mo. Extension

First posted on 06-05-2014

The long, harsh winter coupled with last fall’s drought caused a lot of damage to evergreen trees.

The dead branches of injured evergreens, which can harbor fungi and decay, should be removed, says Hank Stelzer, University of Missouri Extension associate professor of forestry.

“See if there are any green buds along that branch,” Stelzer says. “You’ll want to go above that green bud and prune off there.”

Watering during the summer can help prevent winter damage.

“Make sure it has about an inch of water a week, because that is making sure the root system is healthy,” he says. “Having a healthy root system is better going into winter, whether it’s an evergreen or a hardwood.”

Periodic watering during the fall and winter when the ground is not frozen can also be beneficial, as evergreens still need water during the dormant season, Stelzer says.

“If the ground doesn’t have adequate moisture, evergreens will have winter injury and dry out, which is the brown foliage you see in the spring,” he says.

To protect roots and conserve moisture, Stelzer recommends applying mulch in a 3- to 6-foot ring around the tree.

“The wild temperature fluctuations that we see during any time of the year can really have a significant impact on the root system,” Stelzer says. “You want to keep your trees healthy during the growing season as well as during the dormant season.”