How to Protect Young Trees in the Winter, newly planted tree, protection, winter, protect young trees in winter, frost cracking, sunscalding, evergreen discoloration, desiccation, root injury, frost heaving, solutions, prevent injury to young treesMature trees can usually handle winter conditions and develop resistance and hardiness to harsh conditions. But young trees are much more vulnerable to weather damage than mature ones. So they need a little extra help from you to bear the elements. Protect young trees in winter by taking some of these preventative measures. 

How to Protect Young Trees in the Winter

Conditions like frost cracking, sun scalding, evergreen discoloration, winter die-back, root injuries, and frost heaving can damage young trees. Ice, snow, and salt are also hard on them. 

Frost Cracking

Frost cracking is the result of fluctuating temps that stress young trees. It causes the bark to crack vertically on the trunk or branches. While we can bundle up with extra layers when temperatures drop or fluctuate, trees can’t.    

Solution. Prevent frost cracking on young trees by wrapping the trunk with light-colored paper tree wrap. 


Just like we can get a sunburn, fluctuating winter temps can damage the “skin” of the tree. Quick temperature drops can cause rapid freezing and death of developing inner back tissues causing sunscalding. Sunscald can happen any time of the year. However, winter is usually the most severe. 

Solution. Protect young trees from sun scalding by wrapping the trunk in late fall. Be sure to remove the wrap in early spring to prevent disease and injury. 

Evergreen Discoloration

Evergreens can lose their color in winter due to desiccation (winter burn), destroyed chlorophyll (chlorosis), or hard frosts in early autumn or spring. 

Solution. Choosing the right location for your evergreen is the first step to preventing winter injuries. Use burlap barriers on the southerly or windward side of the tree during winter. Also, keep your trees well-watered during the growing season. Do not water evergreens when frost or freezing temperatures arrive.

Winter Die-Back

Sometimes parts of a tree don’t make it through winter. A limb or group of branches may freeze to death. When this happens, it’s called winter die-back. The dead branches won’t produce new growth in the spring. But don’t panic! It doesn’t mean your tree is a goner. It can bounce back. 

Solution. You can’t do much about winter die-back. However, choosing winter hardy tree varieties can greatly reduce the possibility of damage. Also, avoid late summer pruning, fertilizing, and overwatering. 

Root Injuries

Although soil temperatures usually remain relatively warm underground, young roots can be susceptible to freezing temperatures. Above ground, sections of your young tree enter dormancy in the winter. However, the roots below the surface are very much still active. 

Root tissues don’t acclimate well to temperatures much below freezing. Extremely low temperatures can damage such young tree roots.  

Solution. Backfill the hole for the tree with the soil native to the planting location. Add six to eight inches of mulch to the soil surface around the tree trunk, but not ON the tree trunk. Make sure there are no air pockets to expose the roots to cold temperatures. 

Frost Heaving

Frost heaving is the upward or outward movement of the ground surface, exposing the soil to freezing temperature and moisture. Ice forms in the soil, causing the roots to heave out of the soil and damage the roots. 


Mulching around the young tree’s trunk can help prevent frost heaving. Also, add a layer of compost to improve soil drainage when planting. Well-drained soils warm faster in the spring. 

Preventing injuries can help your young tree survive the winter and bring you enjoyment for years

Do you need tree trimming, tree stump removal, or landscape or lawn maintenance in Northwest Arkansas? Contact Nichols Reliable Lawn Care & More professionals for a beautiful, healthy lawn year-round. 

Get a FREE estimate and get started today!