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The Joy of Gardening

Whether prairie plant or pansy, native or ornamental, gain insight into all aspects of gardening & wildlife.

Why are my evergreens browning?

I have begun to notice some damage to the evergreens. Also, the ones out front by the street are showing some browning out. What should I have done (and when) to help protect my evergreens during the winter? Is there anything that I can do now to help prevent further damage?


Evergreens in contrast to their name can often show signs of browning by the end of winter. The most common cause of this is a lack of moisture available to the plants and is known as winter burn or winter dessication. Keep in mind that evergreens continue to lose moisture throughout winter and need to be able to replenish this, however when the ground is frozen plants are unable to take up the necessary moisture even if it is present. Other times evergreens may not have been sufficiently watered in the fall and there simply is not enough moisture for plants to take up regardless of temperature conditions. Windy conditions can also lead to evergreens losing moisture more rapidly over winter. To avoid all this it is advisable to burlap evergreens and mulch around them to prevent wind damage and water loss. Be sure to water all plants well in the fall before entering winter. There are anti-desiccants available however their efficiency is widely argued. Be assured though that most plants will grow out of this unsightly foliage and alternatively you could also perform a light trimming in the spring. Regarding the plants by the road, the browning is most likely caused by salt damage. Again this can be prevented by sufficiently burlapping plants and adding gypsum to your soil, which helps counteract the salt levels.

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