Winterizing Broad Leaved Evergreens

rhododendron-with-leaf-winter-burn

Do some of the leaves on your broad leaved evergreens turn brown and fall off during the winter? Or have what’s called ‘winter burn’; when the edges of the leaves turn brown over the winter but don’t fall off ? If so, there is something you can do to prevent this leaf damage and loss.

All evergreens lose moisture through their leaves in winter, especially broad-leaf evergreens such as Rhododendron, Azalea, Andromeda, Laurel and Boxwood. If planted in an unprotected area open to cold, drying winds, evergreens are susceptible to desiccation; a condition in which the foliage dries out, turns brown and may drop. To decrease water loss, spray and coat both sides of the leaves with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt-Pruf or Wilt Stop during a day in mid to late November with temperatures above 40 degrees . Make sure it isn’t going to rain or snow during the next couple of days or the spray application may wash off. If you didn’t get to this task in November, then in January if there is a day and evening that stays above 40 degrees, you can treat your shrubs then.

You can purchase Wilt-Pruf or Wilt-Stop at most local garden centers or hardware stores that have a gardening department. (Note: Do not spray arborvitae, junipers, blue spruce or cypress). And, for extreme weather conditions, you can build a protective shelter for your evergreen using stakes and burlap.

You can also use an anti-desiccant spray to prevent leaf dehydration over the winter on cut broad leaved evergreen leaf branches you use for making winter wreaths, swags, and decorations in window boxes. Spray the leaves before you wire the branches together. The spray takes less than an hour to dry.

Holiday Decorating using Fresh Evergreens

Hoilday Evergreens in Container

Holiday Evergreens in container

Fresh greenery/evergreens can be found in your own garden or purchased  from a local garden center. The most common evergreen cuttings you can use for holiday decorating are Pine, Junipers, Cedars, Firs, Spruce, Ivy, Holly, Mountain Laurel, Boxwood and Magnolia.  Other lasting decorations include pine cones, seed pods, winterberries, dried hydrangea flowers, dried leaves, Red Twig Dogwood and Curly Willow branches. (I encourage you to not use Oriental Bittersweet in decorations as it is on the New England invasive plant list).

When cutting evergreen branches off of trees and shrubs, use clean, sharp pruners to prevent disease or fungal spread. With store bought greens be sure to cut 1/2 inch off of the bottom of each stem at an angle. While cutting branches and also creating your arrangements, wear water proof garden gloves or kitchen rubber gloves to keep any branch sap from getting on your hands. Sap isn’t easy to wash off. With a hammer, crush the cut branch ends of all greens and put into water immediately to absorb moisture more easily overnight or until ready to use.

If the greenery will be kept in water for more than a few days, add a packet of florist floral food to prevent bacteria from growing. And (optional), to keep the foliage in your arrangements from drying out, spray the foliage with the anti-desiccant, Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop to help seal in moisture (don’t spray juniper berries, cedar or blue spruce).

Fresh greenery can be displayed outdoors in window boxes and containers, or as swags, garlands or wreaths; both outdoors or indoors. Indoor arrangements should be placed away from heat sources, lit candles, fireplaces, and sunny windows. Note: Poisonous berries are found on holly plants, yews, ivy plants, mistletoe, bittersweet, Jerusalem cherry and crown of thorns; so keep these plants and berries away from pets and young children.

Judy Eisenberg, of Sun and Shade Gardening, offers special deals on designing and arranging winter holiday decorations indoors and outdoors. You can contact her at: SunandShadeGardening@comcast.net

tags: Holiday evergreens, decorating with fresh evergreens, winter plant containers, fresh cut evergreens, Swags, evergreen decorations, Somerville, MA. Custom designed evergreen arrangements, bouquets, holly berries,