- Winter Plant Protection for Evergreens
- 1. Growing Zone
- 2. Avoid Dehydration
- 3. Winter Plant Protection for the Elements
- 4. Avoid Salt
- 5. Watch for Critters
- Winter Wonderlands Are Possible With These Evergreens.
- Why Evergreens Are Great In Winter Landscapes
- The Top Winter Evergreens
- 1. The Emerald Green Thuja
- 2. Hetz Midget Thuja
- 3. The Colorado Blue Spruce
- 4. The Weeping Hemlock ‘Sargents’
- Spring Is Coming
- Zone 4 Evergreen Shrubs – Growing Evergreen Shrubs In Cold Climates
- Growing Evergreen Shrubs in Cold Climates
- Evergreen Shrubs for Zone 4
- 10 Hardy Shrubs You Can’t Kill
- About the Author
- Hardy Hedges for Northern Gardeners
Winter Plant Protection for Evergreens
As temperatures drop and it starts to frost in the fall, we watch pretty deciduous trees display stunning fall colors before their leaves drop. However, evergreens keep their amazing color year-round and continue their normal processes, just at a slower rate.
As temperatures drop and it starts to frost in the fall, we watch pretty deciduous trees display stunning fall colors before their leaves drop. However, evergreens keep their amazing color year-round and continue their normal processes, just at a slower rate. As a result, winter plant protection during the harsh winter season is important, especially while your evergreens become established. Here are a few simple tips to keep yours happy and healthful!
1. Growing Zone
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map displays different zones around the country based on the average lowest winter temperature in the area. Most of the country is divided intogrowing zones 3 through 11, with zone 3 being the coldest.
If you live on the border between two zones and wonder if your plant will survive the winter, look at the average low temperatures for your region. If it gets too cold for your plant’s recommendedgrowing zone, don’t push it. Although, if you correctly winterize your trees, they can survive frigid winter conditions.
For example, the Norway Spruce is an example of an evergreen that can survive in extra cold temperatures. Because the Norway Spruce is recommended for growing zones 2 through 5 (and not recommended for the South), it’s super hardy.
2. Avoid Dehydration
If you aren’t getting much rain during the fall, give your trees some supplemental water but don’t overwater them. Once the ground freezes, water won’t be able to get down to the roots, so it’s important for winter plant protection that trees get enough moisture in the autumn before the ground freezes. Placing a layer of mulch around the bases of your trees will help their soil retain moisture as well.
Another factor to watch: Windburn. Windburn is the process by which cold arctic winds blow against an evergreen’s foliage, causing them to lose water. As a result, the foliage turns brown and dies. This usually occurs in the spring when it’s starting to warm up but winds are still cold, and the ground is still frozen. This is when trees start to enter the growing season and need more water to thrive.
Winter plant protection for windburn involves wrapping your trees in burlap (allow the tops of trees to stick out). You can also set up a burlap screen in front of your tree in the wind’s direction. Generally, windburn only turns tree needles brown on the side where the wind is hitting. If one tree completely turns brown, it’s more likely that it has a disease or pests.
For further winter plant protection and health, any browned or dead areas of the tree should be pruned back in the spring. New foliage will grow to fill in any gaps left by removing dead branches and foliage.
3. Winter Plant Protection for the Elements
One factor that is missed easily is fluctuating temperatures. When temperatures drop during the night and warm up during the day, trees’ temperatures fluctuate at a too-fast rate. As they expand and contract, their trunks can crack. The cracks are known as frost cracks. To prevent frost cracks for your winter plant protection, spread a layer of insulating material, like mulch, around the roots. The mulch will help your trees heat up and cool down over time instead of at a rapid rate.
Furthermore, snow can be quite heavy as it weighs trees down. Sometimes tree branches even snap under the pressure. If you have weak branches, tie them together so that they’re facing upwards, around the trunk of your tree. If your tree has multiple leaders, you can tie them together as well.
And when the bright sun bounces off the snow, it can hit evergreens and burn them. As a result, their needles will turn brown or yellow.
Plus, if a lot of warm sun heats up your trees and they start photosynthesizing at a quicker rate, only to freeze once more, the needles may become discolored. These processes are called sunscald or sunburn. To prevent sunscald, create a burlap barrier to block harsh sunlight from hitting the sides of your trees, or wrap it in burlap. The most sun comes from the East and South, so those are the best directions for your barriers to face.
4. Avoid Salt
Salt used to melt snow results in high salinity levels in runoff, which can be absorbed by your tree. As a result, the needles on your trees can turn brown and die back.
When trees are affected by salts, the parts exposed to the salt turns brown, rather than the entire tree. To avoid salt damage for winter plant protection, avoid placing your trees near heavily salted roads. In addition, make sure that your tree doesn’t sit in an area that receives a lot of runoff from salted areas. If you’re concerned that your area is too salty for an evergreen, you can choose a salt tolerant variety, like the Colorado Blue Spruce.
5. Watch for Critters
When food is scarce, animals will eat bark and maybe even nibble on the roots. The main bark-chewing culprits are bunnies and mice. Keep them away by building a 2-foot mesh wire fence around the base of your tree. You can also place a fake owl and fake snakes around your plants.
Furthermore, you can keep deer away by placinga 4-foot mesh wire fence around your trees. And it’s very important to check on your fences every few days to make sure that animals haven’t become trapped inside.
Also, there are all-natural pest repellents that cause plants to smell bad and taste undesirable to critters. Or you can purchase evergreens that deer and other animals don’t enjoy, like the American Holly or the Thuja Green Giant.
Winter Wonderlands Are Possible With These Evergreens.
Pam ZbochFollow Jan 20, 2016 · 7 min read
January is an interesting time of the year when the days start to grow longer again and most people start returning to their outdoor activities even though it can be quite cold with freezing winter weather. Evergreen trees which keep their green, full-bodied foliage all year help encourage people to get back to their outdoorsy ways by providing beauty in the bleak, barren winter landscape along with many other benefits.
Why Evergreens Are Great In Winter Landscapes
This is probably the most obvious reason why evergreens are great to have in the winter, but nonetheless they’re beautiful. When deciduous plants enter dormancy they drop their leaves, and the only thing that’s left are brown trunks and branches that seem to blend into the countryside to be forgotten until spring.
Evergreens don’t take a break; they keep their green foliage all year, adding vibrant hues to the winter scenery. They’re breathtaking as they pop against brown barren trees, and as snow layers on top of their branches, turning desolate winter landscapes into magical winter wonderlands.
Plus, evergreens are built for the cold. They will survive in frigid conditions up north the deciduous trees can’t handle.
If you don’t enjoy winter wonderlands, and have had it with snow then evergreens can help. If planted in rows their foliage grows together to create a thick living wall that prevents old man winter from penetrating it. Evergreen walls act has windscreens and can stop cold winter winds from blowing into your yard and against your home, keeping it warmer.
Cold winds can harm younger plants, so placing evergreens to stop the harsh winds from hitting them is a great method of preventative care so the young plants can become properly established and thrive.
Along with stopping chilly winds, a row of evergreens can also stop snow from blowing into your yard. Use them to line your driveway, to prevent snow from piling up on it. Imagine the time you’ll save by not having to shovel snow away because your attractive evergreens stopped it from blowing in.
We aren’t the only ones who need protection from the ice and frigid temperatures. There are a number of smaller animals that need shelter too. Birds, rabbits, squirrels and more coexist happily in evergreens, without harming them. The thick foliage creates a warm and cozy get away for birds to relax and nest in. If you and your pets enjoy watching wildlife from the window then evergreens are a must.
Plus some evergreens produce berries, like junipers and hollies. This is great because the berries are a food source for hungry critters while food is scarce during the colder months. While birds nest they will also be happy and full.
You can let your low maintenance evergreens sit there and do their thing or you can get crafty. Branches with red berries are perfect for clipping and bringing indoors for decorations. A few branches on the mantel or in a vase for a tabletop centerpiece are great. You can use evergreen branches to frame windows, hang from light fixtures and to even make wreaths. As an added bonus, the fragrant branches naturally sweeten the air in homes, giving rooms a fresh and crisp scent.
The pinecones from evergreens can also be utilized for stunning home décor. They range in sizes from big to small and can be placed almost anywhere. Hang them from fixtures with string, add them to your wreaths, paint them to give them a snow covered look, and more. Even use them to get a fire started.
Wait fire? Yes, but be careful. If you forget to purchase starter logs from the store, pinecones can be used to get fires up and going in the fireplace or fire pit outside. They are a great back up tool to get warm fires going during freezing winter nights.
The Top Winter Evergreens
To give you a good idea of which evergreens are the best for standing up against snow and freezing conditions we’ve put together a list of the most cold hardy evergreens.
1. The Emerald Green Thuja
If you want a vibrant evergreen, with glowing green foliage then consider the Emerald Green Thuja. Its emerald hue causes it to stand out against the pack and looks stunning all year, but they look especially great once snow graces their branches.
Emerald Green Thujas are recommended for growing zones 3 through 8 and can survive temperatures down to -40 degrees. They scoff at even the toughest winter storms.
By only growing about 8 to 12 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide they’re perfect for tight spaces. If you don’t have much room for new garden plants, then this space saving tree is the optimal choice for your landscape.
2. Hetz Midget Thuja
Not all evergreens have to be big to make a difference. Hetz Midget
Thujas are amazing bushes to have around because their soft yet thick green foliage gives them a perfect rounded shape and textured look. Most people have uniform boxwoods, but Hetz Midget Thujas allows gardeners to be unique and different.
If used to frame the home as a foundation plant Hetz Midget Thujas will insulate it. Their thick foliage will hold heat in during the winter, and cool air in during the summer, which will help to cut down on heating and cooling bills.
Hetz Midget Thujas are recommended for growing zones 2 through 7 and will thrive in tundra-like areas. This bush is a great option for those who want their homes to look great all year with green foundation plants, even if the area has harsh winter conditions.
3. The Colorado Blue Spruce
Evergreens are of course, green, but there are slight variances in shades of color among different tree varieties. The Colorado blue spruce for example, has a dusty blue shade. Its foliage stands out as the perfect backdrop for fall color to pop against in the autumn, and the spring flowers to shine against during the warmer months even though it steals attention with its shimmering blue foliage.
This is the tree to make a big statement in your landscape with because it reaches heights between 30 to 50 feet tall and 10 to 20 feet wide. If you have a large space to cover they will get the job done. Plus, their size makes them the perfect choice for a privacy hedge because they’re tall enough to block the neighbor’s view of your home. Even the upstairs windows will be protected from wandering eyes.
Colorado Blue Spruces will take off in growing zones 2 to 7 and quickly become established. Their dense foliage stands up to snow, ice, freezing temperatures and everything else winter has to throw at it.
4. The Weeping Hemlock ‘Sargents’
When most people think about evergreen trees they think about a tree that stands upright like a classic Christmas tree. The Weeping Hemlock ‘Sargents’ is here to blow that stereotype out of the water because instead of growing upright they arch over. They have long cascading branches that brush the ground.
They have a shape similar to weeping willows, but they are covered with needle like foliage. Also, weeping willows drop their leaves in the fall while Weeping Hemlock ‘Sargents’ keep their foliage all year.
This tree will stand out in your landscape with its unique shape. Your neighbors will be amazed because they have probably never seen a beautiful weeping evergreen before. Then when ice and snow cover the arching branches the tree becomes even more stunning.
Weeping Hemlock ‘Sargents’ grow to about 10 to 15 feet tall and 15 to 30 feet wide, so they’re an excellent option for border plantings as well as privacy screens. With the ability to flourish in growing zones 4 through 8 they are able to stick it to old man winter.
Spring Is Coming
Bright evergreens let us know that soon the cold winter will pass, especially as the days grow longer again. Keep your landscape warm, beautiful, and inviting with beneficial evergreens that will provide beauty for onlookers as well as shelter, food and warmth for smaller outdoor critters.
As a gardener and plant enthusiast I’ve loved growing trees and shrubs my entire life. Unknown to most, there are always new faster fruiting and double blooming plant hybrids emerging on the scene. I often feel the need to share my plant knowledge and new trends with the growing gardening community through my blog!
Zone 4 Evergreen Shrubs – Growing Evergreen Shrubs In Cold Climates
Evergreen shrubs are important plants in the landscape, providing color and texture all year round, while providing winter protection for birds and small wildlife. Selecting zone 4 evergreen shrubs requires careful consideration, however, as not all evergreens are equipped to withstand winter temperatures that can plummet to -30 F. (-34 C.). Read on for helpful tips and examples of cold hardy evergreen shrubs, all suitable for growing in zone 4 or below.
Growing Evergreen Shrubs in Cold Climates
Gardeners considering shrubs for zone 4 must be aware that USDA plant hardiness zones are simply temperature guidelines, and although they are helpful, they don’t consider microclimates within a zone, influenced by wind, snow cover and other factors. Cold hardy evergreen shrubs must be tough and resistant to unavoidable temperature fluctuations that frequently occur in winter.
A thick layer of mulch provides much needed protection to the roots during cold winter months. It’s also a good idea to plant zone 4 evergreen shrubs where the plants aren’t exposed to warm afternoon sun during winter afternoons, as sub-zero temperatures that often follow warm days can do serious damage.
Evergreen Shrubs for Zone 4
Needles evergreen varieties are commonly planted in cooler zones. Most juniper shrubs are suitable for growing in zone 4, and many are tough enough to tolerate zones 2 and 3. Juniper is available in low-growing, spreading varieties and more upright types. Similarly, most types of arborvitaeare extremely cold hardy evergreen shrubs. Spruce, pineand firare also very cold hardy evergreen. All three are available in a range of sizes and forms.
Of the above mentioned needle-type plants, here are some good selections:
- Buffalo juniper (Juniperus sabina ‘Buffalo’)
- Emerald Green arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’)
- Birds Nest Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’)
- Blue Wonder spruce (Picea glauca ‘Blue Wonder’)
- Big Tuno mugo pine (Pinus mugo ‘Big Tuna’)
- Austrian pine (Pinus nigra)
- Russian cypress (Microbiota decussata)
Zone 4 evergreen shrubs are popular in the landscape too. Here are some suitable broadleaf evergreen choices for this zone:
- Purple Leaf wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’)
- Winter Red holly (Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’)
- Bearberry/Kinnikinnick (Arctostaphylos)
- Bergenia/Pig squeak (Bergenia cordifolia)
10 Hardy Shrubs You Can’t Kill
A lot of people would like to garden but are scared off by what they see as a “black thumb”—the inability to keep plants alive. Of course, there is no such thing as a black thumb gardener. All you need to gain confidence in gardening are some easy-to-care-for plants that are practically impossible to kill, and that thumb will be looking pretty green in no time. Who better to get advice from than the author, Stacy Tornio? Her newest book, Plants You Can’t Kill: 101 Easy-to-Grow Species for Beginning Gardeners was created to convert black thumbs and make gardening a whole lot more enjoyable. Stacy is here today to share 10 of the 101 plants covered in the book.
By Stacy Tornio
1. Red Twig Dogwood
Dogwoods are some of the best trees and shrubs around (yes, they are considered both trees and shrubs, depending on the variety). There are seriously hundreds to choose from, and red twig dogwood is one of the best (look for the botanical name Cornus sericea). You can grow it as a small tree or as a shrub, pruning it as you see fit. The best thing about this shrub is that is has bright red stems, so it looks fantastic in winter when there’s not very much other color.
2. Crape Myrtle
Bees adore it, butterflies love it, and it’s a staple in the south. It’s crape myrtle (Lagerstromia). This shrub (which can grow so tall that some mistake it for a tree) is a true sign of spring with its beautiful pink flowers. It can tolerate less-than-perfect soil conditions, and it’s common to see rows of these growing in public gardens or bordering long driveways. Sorry northern gardeners, but it might be off limits to you. If you’re right on the edge of its hardiness zone, you can try offering it protection over the winter, and you just might get it to grow!
The harbinger of spring: this is how gardeners often refer to forsythia (Forsythia × intermedia). When it’s really early in spring and not much else is blooming, the gorgeous golden flowers emerge and brighten up an entire landscape. This shrub really is one of the first things to flower, and it sure does make an impact. You can find gobs of forsythia options out there, including dwarf varieties only reaching a few feet tall to border forsythia, which spreads and is used for borders, hedges, and screening. After the initial bloom, they mostly fade away and are forgotten, but they can still offer a solid swath of green for the rest of the growing season.
The world of hydrangeas is HUGE! You can find hundreds and hundreds to choose from, and the botanical names can get a bit confusing. To make things simple, let’s focus on one of the most popular, the bigleaf hydrangea (look for Hydrangea macrophylla). You can find two main groups, including those with globe-shaped flowers (called mopheads) and flattened flower heads (called lacecaps). Both are beautiful, and once you get them established, they grow for years! Don’t lose patience if you don’t get yours going right away. Sometimes you just need to find the right location in your garden.
The hardest thing to do is to figure out whether juniper is a tree or a shrub. The short answer is that it’s both! You’ve probably seen junipers growing before, most of which fall under the botanical name Juniperus chinensis. This evergreen is extremely versatile, and it’s very popular for people who want something to offer a little privacy in the backyard. All junipers are reliable and fairly maintenance-free, though, so you can plant them without worrying. Plus, nearly all produce blue little berries for the birds!
Yews are one of the longest-living evergreens, and they are a staple in many backyards. You’ve probably seen a yew, even if you didn’t know what it was. While the entire yew family is huge, let’s focus on Taxus x media. This is a hybrid group made up of English yews, which are great ornamentals, mixed with Japanese yews, which can survive harsh winters. All are good options for getting some year-round green added to your yard, but this group of hybrids is particularly known for being relatively disease-free and easy to care for.
Here’s another one—is it a tree? Is it a shrub? Ask two different gardeners and you’ll get two different answers. And they’d both be right. Think about what’s most important to you. Is it fall color? Is it offering food for birds? Is it spring flowers? All serviceberries do this, but some have higher marks than others. For a smaller serviceberry, look for the botanical name Amelanchier alnifolia. For a tree, look for botanical names Amelanchier arborea and Amelanchier canadensis. Once you figure out your #1 priority and you know your space needs, then set out to talk to someone at your local garden center to find a serviceberry that fits those needs.
8. Rose of Sharon
Don’t be fooled by the name on this one. It’s not actually in the rose family at all. Instead, it’s related to hibiscus, which generally have tropical-looking flowers. Look for the botanical name Hibiscus syriacus. Still, gardeners definitely grow it for its blooms, which last all summer. The blooms look a bit like hollyhock and the shrub is very forgiving overall. In fact, some gardeners love the challenge of training a rose of Sharon, pruning it to look like a miniature tree.
Spirea can come in many shapes and sizes. For instance, there’s a kind of spirea called bridal wreath (Spirea vanhouttei) that can get up to 10 feet tall and a whopping 20 feet wide! Because there are so many different types, this is one where it’s really important to read labels when you’re shopping at the garden center. Look at the size listed before you buy. All spireas make great hiding spots and nesting locations for birds, and they are known for producing beautiful spring and summer flowers, too.
Viburnums (botanical name is also Viburnum) can vary a lot in size and shape, but they do share a few key important traits. For instance, all viburnums have year-round appeal with flowers in spring, great foliage in summer, nice color in fall, and berries that last through winter. Birders and gardeners like viburnum equally because of the wide appeal it has with birds. If you only have space for a few shrubs in your backyard, definitely make room for a viburnum. There are seriously hundreds to choose from, so you’re bound to find one that works in your space. Plus, many on the market today are native cultivars—definitely a bonus!
Every garden needs those shrubs they can absolutely count on 100% and feel the success of easy gardening. Now, you can plan your next shrub purchase with the confidence of knowing you’re not going to fail. There are 91 more ideas in Plants You Can’t Kill that will make gardening a breeze.
Look for the book on Amazon or at your local bookstore for even more suggestions on plants you can’t kill. The book also includes recommendations for perennials, trees, annuals, grasses, houseplants, herbs, and veggies.
Reprinted with permission from Plants You Can’t Kill: 101 Easy-to-Grow Species for Beginning Gardeners by Stacy Tornio © 2017. Published by Skyhorse. Photography courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing.
About the Author
Stacy Tornio is an Oklahoma girl at heart, though she’s lived in Wisconsin for the last 15 years. As the former editor of Birds & Blooms magazine, Stacy will always consider herself a birder and gardener. She has more than 10 books to her name, including The Kids’ Outdoor Adventure Book (National Outdoor Book Award winner), The Secret Lives of Animals, Project Garden, and Bird Brainiacs. Also look for Stacy’s books through the Ranger Rick line of books coming out from The National Wildlife Federation.
Hardy Hedges for Northern Gardeners
(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on April 23, 2008.)
The good old hedge. Hedges have been in existence for centuries and they can be used in many ways: livestock enclosures, privacy, windbreaks, or just plain ornamental. We all dream of those beautiful southern hedges using Azaleas, Hibiscus, and other tropical flowering beauties. Alas, it is not to be for we in the north face harsh, cold winters. Do not despair though because there are some flowering beauties that are hedge worthy and will survive our frozen conditions.
Pictured to the right is Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’, a beautiful old cultivar that is hardy to Zone 3a. Growing well in either full sun or partial shade, this beauty is often overlooked as a hedge plant. I think it deserves a comeback!!
Purple Sand Cherry (Prunus x cistena). Hardy to zone 2. Pretty pink flowers in the spring and beautiful maroon leaves all summer long. Prune after flowering to keep the desired height. Can grow to 8 feet tall. Prefers full sun but will tolerate partial shade. Reasonably drought tolerant.
Dwarf Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus ‘Compactus’). Hardy to Zone 4. Grown primarily for its bright red, fall foliage. Prefers full sun but also tolerates partial shade. Slow growing so regular trimming is not needed. Deer resistant as well which is a bonus. Tolerates any soil conditions but does not like to have wet feet. Small yellow/green flowers in the spring.
Japanese Barberry. Hardy to Zone 3a. This thorny bush makes a great barrier. The purple foliage remains all summer. Bright red berries in the fall are a favourite of birds. This bush is also deer resistant.
Lilac. Why not? As a hedge or windbreak, you can’t get much prettier than a Lilac. Imagine the scent!! Hardy to Zone 3a the lilac is versatile enough to be a hedge. Careful trimming is all that is required since they bloom on last year’s growth.
Spiraea. Hardy to Zone 4a the Spirea is a popular hedge bush. Newer cultivars can be hardy to Zone 3. Will grow in full sun or shade. One of the easiest flowering shrubs to grow.
There are many others. I left out the evergreens since we are all familiar with them: cedar, juniper, etc. There are many roses suitable for hedges as well. Mock Orange would make a wonderfully scented hedge.
Hedges are basically living walls. They can be used in a number of creative ways. They can mark property lines, different areas of a garden, line a walkway or a driveway. They can be wind breaks or privacy screens.
Hedges require little maintenance. They need to be trimmed, some a couple of times a year, others every few years. It all depends on what you want from your hedge. Occasionally one of the pieces may die for one reason or another. They would need to be replaced.
My grandfather made me a fan of the hedge. He had tall hedges between his property and the people next door. He lined sidewalks with scented, flowering hedges. He hid the mulch pile with hedges. He used a hedge to separate the vegetable beds from the flower beds. As kids, we had many hours of enjoyment using the hedges to play games of hide-and-seek. The ancient hedges provided caves for us to crawl in. Some of the hedges he trimmed neatly, others he allowed to grow wild.
There is no end to the possibilities a hedge can provide. Go ahead, experiment. Plant a hedge, or two or three.
Many thanks to LarryR for his Hydrangea hedge photo. bootandall for the Purple Sand Cherry, kniphofia for the Japanese barberry and Spirea, spklatt for the Burning Bush and zone5girl for the Lilac. I thank you all for the wonderful additions to PlantFiles.