University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Getting Landscape Plants Ready for Winter

November 5, 1998

Mild, pleasant weather of late October has lulled us to thinking winter is far away. Reality says it is now November, which means the wind, cold, and snow of winter could show up soon. Landscape plantings need to be prepared for potential problems winter may bring.

For example, winter winds and sun can cause desiccation injury to plants, especially evergreens. On needle evergreens, desiccation injury shows up as yellowing or browning of needles during winter or early spring (some varieties naturally do this but quickly recover in spring). On broadleaf evergreens, including rhododendron, boxwood, holly, and some euonymus, typical injury will be scorching or browning of the foliage.

There are ways to prepare evergreens for the harshness of winter. Adequate watering of plantings throughout the fall is critical. Plants existing in exposed areas or along a south or west foundation may be wrapped in late fall with burlap or canvas materials to slow desiccation. Commercially available anti-transpirants can be sprayed on susceptible plants in late fall (temperatures above freezing) to help prevent drying out.

Perennial flowers and strawberries benefit from the application of winter mulch. Winter mulches protect plants from damaging temperature fluctuations during the winter when there is not adequate snow cover. Wait until late November when plants are dormant and the ground is starting to freeze to apply a mulch of straw, leaves, evergreen boughs, or similar materials.

Shrubs and younger trees should be protected from rabbits and mice. Hardware cloth can be used to protect the base of young trees from mice, while chicken wire works well for rabbits. Make a loose fitting cylinder and place around the trunks. A planting of shrubs can be enclosed with a chicken wire fence to keep rabbits out for the winter. Also keep debris away from the bases of woody plants.

Finally, don't forget to mow the lawn right up until it has stopped growing, which is a little later this season due to the mild fall. Clean-up fallen leaves to help assure the lawn is free of debris before snows start accumulating on it.


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