Understanding Winter Protection for Broad-Leafed Evergreens

Applying an Anti-Transpirant Like Wilt Pruf or Wilt Stop Can Help Prevent Unsightly Winter Damage to New Evergreen Plantings

Plants and especially new plantings need water throughout the year — even through their winter dormancy period. This water is not from irrigation, which is usually shut down for the season, but from natural rainfall, winter storms, and thaws. When the ground is frozen, and there are harsh, drying winds, many broad leaf evergreens are especially vulnerable to desiccation, which means the removal or loss of water. These plants cannot uptake water from their roots because of the frozen ground but are still losing a significant amount of moisture from the surface of their leaves. This results in dry, brown, winter-damaged leaves the following spring. Broad-leaf evergreens such as azaleas, laurels, hollies, boxwood, and rhododendrons are particularly vulnerable to desiccation, especially during winters where the grounds are frozen for extended periods. New plantings’ root systems are not yet fully developed and are even more susceptible to winter damage or winter kill.

Examples of winter burn:

Spraying these vulnerable plants with an anti-desiccant or as it is also called, an anti-transpirant spray can provide some protection against this type of winter damage. Gasper Home & Garden Showplace carries two brands of anti-transpirants, Wilt Pruf and Wilt Stop. Both are extremely effective in reducing winter burn.

Wilt Pruf and Wilt Stop are both sprays made from biodegradable pine resin that forms a clear, flexible coating on treated plants. It coats the leaves and stems, creating a protective barrier from moisture loss. While one application lasts 3-4 months, we usually recommend spraying new plants, in particular, two times, once in the fall and again in early winter before temperatures fall consistently below freezing.

Both products are easy to apply and are available for purchase in either a ready-mixed spray bottle or as a concentrate that can be mixed with water and applied using a trigger or pressure tank sprayer.

A Few Precautions
• Carefully read and use according to label directions.
• It is always wise to err on the side of caution as inhalation or contact may irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.
• When using a concentrate, read the label for dilution ratios
• You may spray anytime so long as the spray does not freeze on foliage while spraying or during the subsequent drying period. We recommend splashing some water on a branch to test.
• Let it dry for 3 to 4 hours after spraying in sunlight
• Do not apply to arborvitae, cypress, or cedar until the plants have hardened off for the winter and moisture has retreated into the roots, or cell bursting may occur.
• Do not use on African violets or exotic, slow-growing dwarfing plants.
• Not recommended for use on plants with hairy leaves.
• May turn blue spruce and similar species of evergreen a green color. Natural coloring will return with the next season’s growth if this occurs.

A Useful Holiday Hack
Use an Anti-transpirant spray to extend the life of fresh Christmas trees, wreaths, roping, and fresh green arrangements. The protective coating will hold the moisture in, keeping greens fresher longer and also thereby reducing flammability!

Not Just for Winter
Anti-transpirant sprays can be used any time you need to protect plants from drying out, such as after transplanting when plants are stressed or in shock, or during times of summer drought.