Winter Damage to Landscape Plantings

May 2nd - 2013
May 2nd – 2013

This spring and early summer we have seen more winter damage to landscape plantings then we have observed in many years.  Not just new plantings have suffered, but also many well established perennials, shrubs and trees have been lost or significantly damaged.

Hope is fading fast for plant materials that have not yet pushed new growth.  If you have not seen any new growth within another week or so, its probably not going to happen, and it would be wise to begin making plans to remove the victims of winter kill and replant.

If a tree or shrub has partial die back, it is sometimes possible to get a good result by pruning off the dead branches.  To get a pleasing shape, you may need to prune back some healthy parts of the plant so re-growth will be more even.  Once you have pruned the tree or shrub, apply a moderate dose of timed release fertilizer to assist regrowth.  Avoid over-fertilizing.

A harder decision is when a perennial or shrub has died back so much that only a little weak new growth is taking place.  This indicates fairly serious damage to the root systems, something which most plants will be unable to overcome and be vigorous again.  If vigorous regrowth does not occur by late June, it’s probably best to cut your losses and replant.

Farmers across the Midwest have lost millions of acres of alfalfa to the smothering sheets of ice that covered the landscape several times last winter.  The same thing has killed or severely damaged the roots of trees, shrubs and perennials, and an additional cruel blow was the two late heavy wet snows that broke branches on many plants.

Just as farmers will be replanting alfalfa, most of us will be replacing plant materials in our landscapes.  When selecting replacements you may want to consider just how much hardiness is part of the genetic makeup of the available choices.

Good luck and happy planting!  Opportunity awaits to try something different!