The lone voice of horticultural reason

Don’t wrap evergreens in burlap for winter protection.

 Burns ‘em right up, is all a burlap wrap does.

The reason evergreens burn in winter is the needles get dry, from sun and wind. Wrap the poor plant in burlap and the burlap acts as a wick – the sun is still beating down on the plant, heating it up (through the burlap), the wind is still blowing and drying it out (through the burlap), except now there is a nice light, dry fabric wrapped around the plant to be sure all the moisture is sucked out.

For the first few years you plant certain evergreens, particularly dwarf shrubs, where they will receive more than a few hours of direct sunlight in winter, shade them with burlap walls (bottom picture).

Remember, we plant evergreens for winter interest as much as any other reason. Know if the evergreen is susceptible to winter burn – most arborvitae, pines, spruce, and firs are not. Yews are typically planted in so much shade that they remain in shade in winter, but truth is an established yew, properly maintained, can handle full winter sun. Be sure all evergreens go to bed having been watered well through fall. If you think building a burlap wall is a wise precaution, you only need it one winter, two at the most. If the plant burns without a burlap wall after two years of root development and growth, it was the wrong plant for the spot, or went to bed dry (and I’ll wager it wasn’t fertilized in the spring, either).

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener