Winter Damage on Cedars

Cedar Winter Damage

Severe winter weather and below freezing temperatures can sometimes damage cedar trees, including Blue Atlas, Deodar, and Lebanon. Damage appears as dead needles on the outer edges or dead needles intermixed with live green needles. Freeze damage symptoms may not be evident until several months later when temperatures warm and growth initiates. All evergreens drop some of their foliage every year, usually in the fall or spring, so some dead needles are visible on a cedar every year.

Freeze-damaged plants should be allowed to have enough time for new growth to appear before deciding to remove or prune. This may be as late as June. The best recommendation for winter is to fertilize now with TLC Tree, Shrub, and Landscape Food and wait to prune this spring.  Apply Miracle-Gro LiquaFeed to the foliage every 7-10 days in April and May. This fertilizer combination will provide both quick and long term results. If dead needles are not apparent, but the cedars have dull colors, apply Ironite.

When June arrives, determine which stems are dead by scratching the stem to determine if green tissue exists. Remove or cutback stems to healthy stems containing green tissue. Follow the natural shape of the tree. Cedars tend to grow in an uneven, sloppy pyramidal shape. Leave the lowest branches the longest, and gradually shorten the length of branches as you move toward the top of the tree. Consider carefully before removing large branches. Mature trees can withstand entire branches being cut back to the trunk if this will provide the shape you want. However, this could leave a large gap that takes years to fill in.  If it is determined that 30 percent or more of the top of the plant is dead, it is usually best to completely remove the plant, otherwise, cut out the dead branches and prune to reshape.

Be patient, as this is a common occurrence for cedar trees, and they usually recover nicely with proper care. Please bring a photo or sample of your damaged cedar trees to TLC Garden Centers for diagnosis and treatment instructions.

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