, Newburyport, MA

January 8, 2014

Tim's Tips: Winter takes its toll on plants

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — We have had some very cold weather this winter. We have also had a fair amount of snow.

Both of these can be damaging to your shrubs. Cold temperatures accompanied by wind can easily dry out the leaves of your rhododendrons, boxwood and other broadleaf evergreens. This is the main reason that you needed to either apply an anti-desiccant spray to your shrubs or wrap your shrubs in burlap before the cold weather hit in the late fall.

You may still be able to wrap your shrubs in burlap if the temperatures moderate for a few days. But if the plants have been exposed to very cold temperatures, they are likely to snap when you try to secure the burlap around them.

Wet snow or ice can easily build up on your shrubs, and the weight of the snow or ice can cause branches to snap. This holds true for your shrubs and also for your trees.

There isn’t a lot you can do about an ice storm covering your plants with ice. Sometimes you can take a hose and use water to melt away the ice. The problem arises when the water does not melt the ice and the water freezes and causes additional buildup of ice. The best bet can be hoping for warm and sunny weather to quickly follow any icy buildup on your plants.

Wet snow can damage your plants before you have a chance to do anything about it. Many people will shake a plant after the snowstorm to remove the snow. If the plant has been cold, the act of shaking off the snow can damage it. Sometimes a gentle sweeping with a broom will remove the snow without damage to the shrub.

There are also man-made problems that can cause damage to your shrubs during the winter. A snowblower can make quick work of clearing a driveway or walkway. But the force of that snowblower can throw a lot of snow onto your shrubs, and the weight of that snow can easily damage your plants. Needless to say, if you are using a snowblower, try not to direct the snow onto your shrubs.

The rain we had on Monday added a lot of water to the snow on the roofs of many homes. If you need to get that snow off the roof, try to prevent that heavy snow from landing on your shrubs. A heavy shovelful of snow dropping 8 feet or so onto a shrub can easily damage it.

Winter is a tough time for our trees and shrubs. Protecting the shrubs in the fall can save you from having to replace plants after a snowy winter. Otherwise, you will have to take actions after a snowstorm that may cause additional damage to your plants.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.