Winter Plant Damage – what to expect this spring


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Winter Plant Damage – what to expect this spring

As the long, cold winter wanes into a new spring, damage to landscape plants will become evident, as the snow piles disappear.

With the heavy snow cover that this area received, combined with its longevity, landscape plants – especially shrubs – have been vulnerable to damage from animal browsing. Rabbits, voles (mice), and even squirrels have been active above, and below, the snow lines – chewing and feeding on shrub stems, bark, and bud tips.


Damage severity from browsing will be variable – from minor tip damage, to complete basal girdling (and plant death). Shrubs that have minor damage will show some tip die-back, after the first flush of foliage, and will need to be pruned out. Girdled plants may show early problems and not leaf-out, or may show a delayed foliage die-back after first flush – common with evergreen plantings that show browning foliage in late spring. Severe damage may require removal and replacement of established landscape plantings. Early scouting for damage will provide the quickest determination of problems, and will allow for better planning of replacements, early in the season.

The repeated, and long-term cold periods of this past winter, have been tough on some evergreens – particularly Evergreen Yews. Foliage tips of many yew plantings are now showing die-back and browning tips. These are branch tips that may not have hardened off from last fall growth periods, and have been damaged by the very cold temperatures.

Most of the damage to evergreen yews is aesthetic only, and can simply be pruned out this coming spring. New growth will be encouraged with warming temperatures and the pruning. If the die-back severely effects the majority of the plant – removal and replacement may be necessary - to maintain a good landscape appeal.