Month: March 2021

When is The Best Time to Plant New Trees in the Mid-South?

Though we here at Red’s Tree Service mostly deal with tree removal, we try to keep ourselves sharp on all aspects of the tree life cycle. We’re certainly thankful for this preparedness because we’re often contacted by friends and clients who all want answers to the same question: when is the best time to plant new trees in the Mid-South

Though it may be counter-intuitive, the best time to plant new trees in the Mid-south is actually the fall. Want to know why? Read on below!

Cooler weather means better roots

You may think that planting in warm weather is the best way to produce the largest and prettiest plant. Unfortunately, and perhaps due to the fact that most plants lack frontal lobes, plants get so immediately distracted by the warm sunlight that they grow upwards and outwards instead of downwards, meaning that they don’t develop a sufficient root system. This can lead to a severe lack of water, nutrients, and stability, and can result in a dead plant. 

When the temperature cools in the fall, most trees and shrubs enter a dormant period. This means that the plants are not producing new growth or flowers which allows them to store and save energy in the root system to be used for growth in the spring and summer. 

During a tree’s first year in the ground, the root establishment process lays the, well, roots for leaf production down the road. The longer that your tree’s roots have to establish themselves before the growth explosion that is spring, the sturdier they will be. And the sturdier and better established the roots become over the winter, the more water they can take up as the weather warms, thereby helping produce more leaves!

Other benefits of planting during fall

As fall befalls the Mid-South, the cooler weather and increased rainfall mean that your trees will need less watering and less general maintenance to be happy. They won’t mind some time by themselves to grow at their own pace and to do their own thing, and eventually will enter a sort of pseudo-hibernation as the chill of winter sets in. They’ll more or less remain in this state of reduced water requirement and growth energy until cued by the warmth of spring to burst forth in new glory!

Don’t wait too long to plant

Planting when the ground is too cold means that the roots won’t be able to penetrate the soil as well, and your tree might struggle to situate itself. In extreme cases, this can kill your tree before it has a chance to establish itself, but at the very least your tree might develop unsightly blemishes like withered limbs or leafless areas.

Other things to consider when planting new trees

It’s always wise to check your soil conditions before planting, paying special attention to how the weather has affected the soil around your desired planting area. Hard and compact soil can cause problems for root growth by making it more difficult to expand, so look for areas with loose and well-aerated soil.

Soil needs to be loose for water to drain as well, so the roots won’t drown and dirt won’t be washed away when it rains. Make sure to loosen the ground beneath and around where you plan to plant your tree; this allows the main center roots to reach down to firmly establish the tree, while the bulk of the periphery roots can reach horizontally and stay closer to surface level. 

Trust Red’s Tree Service for your tree needs!

As your tree grows into a beautiful behemoth, it might need some professional care and upkeep to help it stay in tip-top shape. Certain species of trees will require more precise timing and different approaches for proper pruning, and having an experienced arborist like ours on hand helps keep both you and your trees safe. By using a licensed tree service professional like Red’s, you’re ensuring that a correct pruning and trimming job will be done. This will create and maintain strong tree structures that will look beautiful for years to come. If you have trees you’d like us to inspect or are overdue for a pruning, get in touch with us today for a FREE estimate! 

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Spring is Coming … Along with Foliar Diseases

After the cold, dark weather of winter, we are all looking forward to spring! Flowers will be blooming.  The birds will be singing. And while spring brings new life to trees, it also brings foliar diseases that attack their growing leaves. Foliar diseases impact the appearance of a tree’s leaves (resulting in spots, lesions or other visible defects) and hurt the tree’s ability to make food through photosynthesis.

Foliar diseases are found in most geographies and in a range of tree species. Here are some common examples.



Anthracnose is a disease that affects many types of trees, though some species are more susceptible including sycamore, oak (especially white), maple, ash and walnut. Symptoms typically appear anywhere from May to mid-June depending on the location and weather. These symptoms differ based on the species. For example, infected sycamore, white oaks, and maple develop large irregular brown to purplish lesions develop along leaf veins. Ash, black oak, and walnut, on the other hand, display more discrete circular or angular lesions on leaves.


Fireblight causes wilting and blackening of blossoms and leaves in many species such as crabapple, hawthorn, pyracantha, spirea and species in the rose family. Leaves will have a ‘scorched’ appearance and cankers usually develop on the stems. Fireblight activity occurs from May through early June depending on the location.

Apple scab

apple scab

Apple scab is a major disease of apple and crabapple trees. When early spring weather is warm and moist, and thus particularly conducive to disease development, hawthorn and mountain ash may also be affected. Smoky or smudgy spots on leaves is the first sign of a problem. As infection continues, the leaves and fruit become deformed and flowering is reduced.

Powdery Mildew

powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is an easily recognized disease characterized by white spots or patches on the foliage that look like powder. The disease impacts many species and develops most easily during warm, dry weather.

Leaf Spot Diseases

leaf spot

This is a common term applied to a number of different diseases that impact foliage with the chief symptom being spots. Entomosporium leaf spot is one example that attacks the rose family and certain fruit trees. Tubakia leaf spot, also known as Actinopelte leaf spot, is a late season fungal disease that commonly attacks oaks, particularly those in the red oak group.

Rust Diseases

rust disease

Another common term applied to a group of diseases, rusts result in freckle-like spots on the leaf surface – anywhere from a few dots to a speckled mass. The spots may have a reddish “rust” color, but can be other colors as well. Unusual growths called galls sometimes accompany these diseases. Cedar apple rust, pear trellis rust and hawthorn rust are a few examples.

Management of foliar diseases

Some insects and diseases can be effectively treated after symptoms become apparent. Not so with foliar diseases. For maximum efficacy, treatments should be applied preemptively. Controlling these diseases once symptoms are noticeable is notoriously difficult.  Treatments are far more effective when applied to prevent infection in the first place. While this does make application decisions challenging, it is a safe bet that if foliar disease symptoms were present in the past, they will likely return.

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Tree Pruning in Spring

Spring tree pruning is often necessary to remove disease or dead wood

Prevent the dead wood on your trees from attracting infestation and disease. Knowing which trees you can prune in the spring will help you promote their health and vigorous growth. gathered information on pruning trees and shrubs in springtime, which trees to never prune in spring, and some of the diseases and insects to be aware of.

When To Prune Trees in Spring

Should I prune in early, mid, or late spring? This answer depends on when and how your tree blooms.

Consider the following species and their blooming patterns:

  • Abelia (Abelia x Grandiflora) Prune in early spring. Blooms in summer.
  • Apple trees (Malus Domestica) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid to late spring.
  • Apricot trees (Prunus armeniaca) Prune in early spring. Blooms in early spring.
  • Azalea (Rhododendron) Prune after spring flowers fade. Blooms from early spring to late summer.
  • Chaste trees (Vitex agnus-castus) Prune in early spring. Blooms from late spring until early fall.
  • Cherry trees (Prunus avium) Prune in early spring or mid-summer. Blooms in mid-spring
  • Chokecherry trees (Prunus virginiana) Prune in early spring. Blooms in late spring.
  • Clethra or Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid-summer.
  • Crabapple trees (Malus) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid to late spring.
  • Dogwood trees (Cornus florida) Prune in early spring during dormancy. Blooms in mid to late spring.
  • Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia) Prune in late spring after blooms fade. Blooms in early spring.
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus) Prune in early spring. Blooms in late spring or early summer.
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) Prune in spring. Blooms in mid to late summer.
  • Juneberry trees (Amelanchier lamarckii) Prune in early spring. Blooms in mid-spring.
  • Lilac trees (Syringa reticulata) Prune immediately after spring flowers fade. Blooms in early spring.
  • Magnolia trees (Magnolia grandiflora) Prune immediately after spring flowers fade. Blooms in early spring.
  • Peach trees (Prunus persica) Prune in spring as buds swell. Blooms in spring.
  • Pear trees (Pyrus calleryana) Prune in early spring before bud swell. Blooms anytime through mid-spring.
  • Plum trees (Prunus domestica) Prune in early spring before bud swell. Blooms in early spring.
  • Roses (Rosa) Prune in early spring before leafing. Blooms in spring, summer, and fall.

Maple (Acer), Walnut (Juglans), and Birch (Betula) trees tend to ooze copious amounts of sap after winter pruning. These species release less sap in early spring, making it the preferred time for pruning them.

Tip 1: Trees and shrubs flowering in mid or late summer are doing so on the current year’s growth. Promote this growth by pruning them in early spring.

Spring pruning for flowering trees is determined by when they flower

Tip 2: Trees and shrubs flowering in spring are doing so on the previous year’s growth. These should be pruned only after their flowers fade. Pruning these species before blooming may significantly reduce or eliminate the season’s flowers.

The dormant season is critical in the deciduous tree life cycle, but since trees bloom and enter dormancy at different times, When Should I Prune Trees is a pertinent question that we are often asked. As indicated above, pruning prior to blooming season is a good rule of thumb, but not all trees adhere to this rule, and pruning them incorrectly can be disastrous.

Trees To Never Prune in Spring

Spring tree pruning should never be performed on some species like elm

Spring pruning for some species can result in catastrophic consequences. The following species are already highly susceptible to disease, and pruning them in spring only exacerbates their susceptibility:

  • Oak trees (Quercus) susceptible to oak wilt.
  • Elm trees (Ulmus) susceptible to Dutch elm disease.
  • Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) susceptible to anthracnose.
  • Honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos) susceptible to stem cankers.

These and most deciduous tree species should be pruned during their dormant season (late fall through early spring).

Note: Storm and other types of damage should be immediately pruned off the tree, regardless of the season. Leaving damaged wood on any tree species will likely result in infestation or disease.

Tree Diseases and Insect Infestations

Spring tree pruning can leave some species vulnerable to disease and infestation

If you live in an area affected by an insect or disease epidemic, hire a professional tree service to perform any spring pruning activities on your trees. Such epidemics or outbreaks may include:

  • Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) only attacks ash species.
  • Dutch Elm Disease (DED) primarily affects elm species.
  • Anthracnose – Shade trees such as sycamore, ash, oak, and maple are highly susceptible.
  • Bark Beetles attack cedar, spruce, fir, and pine tree species.
  • Ambrosia Beetles attack thin-barked, deciduous trees, including more than 100 species.

Tip: Inquire with your local university extension or an ISA certified arborist to confirm any disease or insect epidemics/outbreaks in your area. You can also inquire with your local USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office.

Further Reading: If Anthracnose is prevalent or relevant in your region, we wrote an in-depth article on How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Anthracnose that would be a beneficial read.

When To Prune Trees

In this article, you discovered which flowering tree species can be safely pruned in spring and which species to never cut or prune during the spring months.

Promote vigorous growth and increase your tree’s health by using timely pruning practices in spring.

Without proactive pruning, dead or diseased wood left on your tree will attract diseases and infestations lethal to them.


Todd’s Marietta Tree Services

200 Cobb Pkwy N Ste 428 Marietta, GA 30062
(678) 505-0266

Helping Trees Recover from Winter Weather and Injuries

After winter, it’s important to help trees and shrubs recover from the stress of harsh weather and any injuries. This is particularly true since plants under stress are more susceptible to several insects and diseases. There are a number of things that can be done to help trees and shrubs be in their best shape for spring so that they are healthier overall and less susceptible to pest problems.

Don’t prune too soon

Avoid heavy pruning on limbs exhibiting brown foliage in late winter. Sometimes, these plants will push out new growth from limbs with winter injuries. Prune out dead twigs and branches after the plant has resumed growing in spring.

Get a soil analysis

A soil analysis will reveal important information about the nutrients and organic matter available to trees, which is helpful in planning specific fertilization and soil treatments.

Be sure to feed and water

Fertilization, mulching and irrigation help promote new growth on plants damaged during winter.

Remove salty snow

To reduce injury from deicing salts, remove salt-laden snow from around tree trunks before the spring thaw. Soil should be analyzed as soon as weather thaws for salt levels.

Monitor frost cracks

Cracks in stems and branches often close without any treatment. Watch frost cracks closely during the early spring to make sure they close.

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7 Spring Tree Care Tips

Spring tree care and maintenance for vigorous growth

Prevent your trees from dying when they should be coming out of dormancy and thriving. Knowing how to care for your trees in the spring will keep them healthy and thriving. assembled the following tips to help you get your trees ready for the spring growing season.

1. Inspect Your Trees

The beginning of spring is the optimal time to inspect your trees. Your deciduous trees will sill be leafless, and your evergreens, well, should be green. During your inspection, look for the following:

• Cankers (dead sections of bark on branches or tree trunks)
• Oozing sap (trees eject sap to cover and protect wounds)
• Signs of infestation (adult beetle exit holes)
• Signs of disease (blackened and curled twigs)
• Structure (odd, crossed, or unwanted growth patterns)
• Prior pruning wounds (showing decay, fungal growth, excessive sap discharge)
• Suckers (these are offshoots from the trunk, branches, and roots that indicate stress and can be signs of a diseased tree)

Tip: Eliminate doubts and potential misdiagnoses by hiring an ISA certified arborist to check your trees, shrubs, and plants.

2. Prune Dead Wood

Spring tree care and maintenance pruning away dead wood

Winter is the best time to prune trees. However, the very beginning of spring offers you a visual indication of wood that needs to be removed. Consider the following:

• Prune out dead branches and twigs (use the “scratch test” green/moist beneath the bark – it’s alive. Brown/dry beneath the bark – prune it off.)
• Carefully prune diseased limbs or branches (look for cankers or discolored bark)
• Remove undesired growth (crossed branches and shape altering growth)
• Prune off and sprouting suckers (these anomalous growths take tremendous energy from the rest of the tree)

When your tree starts to leaf out or bloom, cease all pruning activity. The tree’s energy (stored water and nutrients) is being used for growth.

Note: Make your pruning cut 12-inches toward the trunk from where the limb’s diseased portion begins. If the disease is within 36-inches of the trunk, remove the entire limb.

Tip: Sanitize your pruning equipment (including your gloves) before and after working on a diseased tree.

Visit the link for further information and tree pruning techniques.

3. Provide Water for Your Trees

Spring tree care and maintenance watering for increased health

Out of everything a tree requires for healthy growth, water is the most important. Too little, and the tree will suffer hydraulic failure. Too much, and roots may become diseased, quickly killing the tree. Take the following into account:

• Soil around the tree should be well-drained (doesn’t pool up and stay)
• Soil should be consistently moist to the touch (not wet)
• Avoid all overhead watering or practices that splash water (splashing water is a primary vector for disease transmission)
• Water your tree 2 to 3 times per week
• Deep water your tree once weekly (let the water soak to a depth of 12 to 15-inches, this encourages roots to grow deep)
• Use soaker hoses or buckets to irrigate your trees (buckets with holes drilled in the bottom are great for deep waterings)

Tip: Increase watering frequency during times of drought and decrease it in unusually wet times.

4. Mulch Your Trees and Gardens

Spring tree care and maintenance mulch to regulate soil moisture and temperature

Applying organic mulch to your trees and garden helps regulate both soil temperature and moisture. Here’s how to do it right:

• Apply a 3 to 6-inch layer of mulch to the entire area within the dripline of your trees (needles, wood chips, or compost)
• Keep mulch pulled back 2 to 3-inches from the tree trunk (this avoids excess moisture and insect trouble around the root flare)
• When the mulch compresses, fluff it up and add more when needed
• Mulch your garden in the same manner

Mulch also serves as an “off-limits” zone to keep lawnmowers, wheelbarrows, and other equipment from encroaching on and damaging your trees.

Note: The drip line is the area beneath the branches, extending to the outer edge of the canopy.

Tip: Organic mulch naturally adds nutrients to your soil as it decomposes while increasing and protecting your soil’s biodiversity.

5. Fertilize Trees and Plants

You may need to feed your trees. Before doing so, you should have your soil properly tested to measure its nutrient and mineral content, as well as its pH. You can send your soil sample to a university extension lab or a professional laboratory. Your soil test results should reveal:

• Cation Exchange Capacity or CEC (measures soil’s ability to retain elements and nutrients with positive charges or “cations”)
• Base Saturation (this is the distribution of cations in the soil)
• Nutrient and mineral levels and deficiencies
• Soil pH (most trees prefer slightly acidic soil or a pH of 6.1 to 6.9)

What increases soil pH? Lime can be added to acid soils to increase soil pH. Lime not only replaces hydrogen ions while increasing soil pH, it also provides calcium and magnesium to the soil.

What decreases soil pH? Aluminum sulfate and sulfur are commonly used to acidify soil. Easily found at garden supply centers, aluminum sulfate changes soil pH instantly as the aluminum dissolves in the soil.

What do the three numbers on fertilizer labels mean? All fertilizer labels have three bold numbers. The 1st is the nitrogen (N) content, the 2nd is the phosphate (P2O5) content, and the 3rd is the potash (K2O) content.

Fertilizers come in a multitude of combinations and types. Most popular are granular, slow-release fertilizers, which should include the components your soil test identified as deficient for optimum tree growth.

Note: Fertilizing without testing may be detrimental to your trees and shrubs. Too much nitrogen, sulfur, or magnesium may stunt tree growth and disrupt the soil’s biodiversity.

Tip: If you aren’t sure about which laboratory to send your soil sample(s), ask your local ISA certified arborist to have the soil tested for you or ask a nearby nursery which one(s) they use.

6. Remove Weeds from Your Landscape

Spring tree care and maintenance weed removal

While there are dozens of chemical herbicides promising miraculous weed control results, you run the risk of causing damage to or outright killing your plants, shrubs, and trees. Consider the following removal methods:

Stop digging! – Weed seeds are practically everywhere, but only seeds at the top of soil get the right conditions to trigger germination. Digging and cultivating activities elevate buried weed seeds to the surface. Dig only when needed and immediately fill the disturbed area with plants or mulch.

Mulch – Mulch regulates soil temperature and deprives weeds of sunlight. Organic mulches can host crickets and carabid beetles, which consume weed seeds.

Deadheading – Cutting back the tops of perennial weeds reduces reseeding and forces them to use up their nutrients. No matter how you choose to deadhead your weeds, chopping them down before they seed will help you keep them from spreading.

Water your plants, not your weeds – Deprive weeds of water by placing drip or soaker hoses underneath the mulch. This method efficiently irrigates plants and leaves nearby weeds dry. Water depriving weeds can reduce weed-seed germination by up to 70 percent.

Pull them out – After rain or a deep watering, get your gloves, a kneeling pad, and a weed disposal container. Use a fishtail weeder or an old salad fork to pry up tap-root weeds, like dandelion, thistle, and dock. During dry conditions, weeds sliced off just below the soil line will die. If your weeder is too large or wide, use an old steak knife to sever their roots, then fill in any open spaces left in your mulch.

Note: Keeping your soil’s biodiversity healthy and maintaining a minimum of 3-inches of organic mulch year round will naturally deter weed growth.

7. Plant New Trees

Early spring is a great time to plant a tree. Both evergreens and deciduous trees will be coming into their growing season and have the time to “harden” new growth before the arrival of the next winter season. Observe the following:

• Determine the proper tree species by your USDA hardiness zone map
• Determine which species is the right tree in the right location
• Have the soil tested and adjusted to the species preferences
• Plant your tree
• Care for your tree

Read this beginners guide to tree planting to learn more about the process and considerations.

Spring tree care and maintenance planting new trees

Spring Trees

In this article, you discovered seven pro tips to guide you through your tree preparation for the coming growing season.

With just a little knowledge about tree care and easy-to-follow tips, you can all but guarantee a healthy and robust growing season.

Ignoring the basic necessities of your trees will lead to their disease, infestation, decline, and eventual death. Allowing your trees to die in this manner invites the potential for cataclysmic property damage and personal injury when they fall.


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Brood X Cicadas and Your Trees and Shrubs

periodical cicadaBrood X is on its way. This is one of the largest broods of periodical cicadas, and the insects will soon be seen in a number of states including Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York (nearly extinct), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington D.C. If you lived in these areas in 2004, you may remember seeing (and hearing) the noisy, prolific insects in your landscape. They emerged, molted, mated, layed eggs, and died within just 4-5 weeks and then seemed to disappear. But quietly those eggs hatched and the nymphs burrowed underground, feeding, growing, and biding their time, until now.

Every seventeen years, this hoard emerges. In 2021 there will once again be a cacophonous swarm, filling the bellies of squirrels and birds, forcing windows closed at night, and potentially damaging valuable plant material in landscapes.

When will Brood X arrive?

Brood X nymphs will begin to surface when soil temperatures reach 64 degrees (from late April to early June depending on the location). They will attach to any surface available, emerge as winged adults from their nymphal exoskeletons and then take flight.

cicada emerging from nymphal skin

A cicada emerges from its nymphal skin.

How will Brood X impact shrubs and trees?

branch damage from cicada egg laying activity

Cicada damage to a small branch resulting from egg-laying activity.

For nourishment, cicadas suck sap and nutrients from trees and shrubs. This feeding activity usually only causes major damage when it occurs over several years, or if the plant is already under stress. Egg-laying activity is more likely to pose a potential issue. Females use a saw-like ovipositor (egg laying appendage) to cut slits into the twigs of trees and shrubs where they will lay their eggs. Just one single female may produce as many as thirty-five bark punctures. Twig death can occur beyond the oviposition scars. Most of this damage is aesthetic, but it can cause harm in rare cases.

netting structure for protection from cicadas

Vulnerable and small, high-value trees or shrubs can be protected with a netting structure.

To prevent damage to smaller and vulnerable high-value trees and shrubs, nets can be cast over the crowns. This netting should not be placed directly on branches. New shoots will either grow through the netting or be forced to curl beneath it, deforming that growth. The damage that ensues is often as bad or worse aesthetically than the damage that would have been inflicted by the insects. Alternatively, netting should be supported on a framework to protect growth and deter insect egg-laying activity. These netting structures must be in place before new growth begins and before cicadas mate and lay eggs. Proper installation of netting can be expensive so this should be reserved for the most valuable and vulnerable trees and plants.

After the cicadas have once again gone underground, a Certified Arborist can review any trees or shrubs that have been damaged. Feralization and soil care can reduce stress and aid in recovery. Pruning to remove dead or dying branches may also be recommended.  Other treatments can help suppress insects, like borers, that typically target and attack damaged plants.

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Make Your Lawn Look Nice After the Winter Season

Spring Yardwork As usual, many people’s lawns and yards look a little worse for wear because winter is, in general, a rough season. As spring comes along, it’s time to start thinking about getting out of the house and tending to your lawn to make it look nice.

When the weather is sunny and warm, spend a day or two doing some things to get your lawn in order. For instance, rake up dead leaves and pick up sticks from the ground. This is great exercise to help you strengthen your core, by the way– or you could pay kids a couple bucks to go around and pick stuff up for you! Whether it’s you or someone you know, cleaning up the lawn involves picking up storm debris, trash, branches, and “snow mold,” which involves brown, matted-down, and “dead looking” patches on the lawn. All this stuff should be thrown out, put into trash cans, and carted off by the local trash man.

Oftentimes, plows end up pushing snow onto the lawn, leaving piles of dirt in odd places, above the ground. Therefore, take these piles and put them back into the holes from where they came. Indeed, anywhere you find uneven ground, get your shovel out, find a place with excess dirt, and use that to fill in holes/low spots on your lawn.

If you have flower beds, spring’s the right time to rake them clean and then lay down mulch in preparation for planting season.

Do some research online and talk to friends in order to find out what kind of plants/shrubs you might consider adding to the lawn this year. You’ll want to take into account the New Jersey climate, as well as things like the amount of sunlight a certain spot gets or if it’s in range of your hose for proper watering.

Should you need any trees trimmed or removed from your yard to help make it look better this time of year, contact Big Foot Tree Service today.

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Cold Temperatures and Woody Plants

Rhododendron in winter

After the cold weather of winter some plant-lovers are worrying about the health of their shrubs and trees. Plants in their native range that typically experience harsh winter conditions should be just fine if they are healthy otherwise. All plant species native to temperate regions have mechanisms for tolerating cold conditions to some degree. They have to!

Examples of amazingly cold-tolerant species

  • Sugar maple
  • River birch
  • Black willow
  • American elm
  • American basswood
  • White spruce
  • Mugo pine
  • Swiss stone
  • Lodgepole pine
  • Scots pine

How plants respond to cold

tree covered in snow

Trees have many adaptations that help them survive when cold weather hits.

Trees and shrubs have many adaptations to survive during cold weather. One way cold can injure plants is when large ice crystals form. Plants can actually prevent ice crystal formation and the related dehydration. To do this, plants accumulate solutes in their tissues, thus decreasing the freezing point of water. This process helps ensure large ice crystals can’t form and “rob” the plant of needed water.

Another way that plants tolerate extremely cold conditions is to synthesize proteins such as dehydrins that act as scaffolding for cellular membranes and heat-shock proteins that stabilize cells and tissues.

The last major response of plants to extreme cold is to alter the lipid composition of their cell membranes. Under extremely cold conditions, the cell membranes of plants typically become extremely rigid and stiff. By changing out their membrane lipids to more fluid types, their cell membranes avoid this change.

All of these tactics are usually extremely effective in protecting plants from cold temperatures.

When cold is a problem for plants

Plants require time to get acclimated and re-tool their internal machinery to deal with cold conditions. This is why most winter damage on temperate woody plants is associated with sudden, drastic changes in temperature.

How to help protect plants

The first step in protecting plants from cold conditions is to be proactive. This includes tactics as simple as choosing the right species for the region, making sure there is an insulating layer of mulch to protect the roots, and covering particularly vulnerable plants with material such as burlap.

If damage occurs, pruning to remove dead sections of the plant should be performed because that damage can attract canker pathogens or borers. However, make sure not to over-prune already stressed plants. It is not advisable to take away more live tissue than is absolutely necessary.

Once the soil has warmed, the root system can be examined. If the root system appears healthy, make sure to properly irrigate and fertilize the plant. Coming out of cold damage, the plant will be focused on dealing with recovery, but over-fertilization can fool the plant and divert resources toward growth and away from repair and recovery. With that in mind, a soil test is an important step to recovery and ensuring proper fertilization.

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