Can You Darken A Tree That’s Been Sun Bleached?

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By Bonnie L. Grant

Sun bleached tree trunks are common in the South on plants such as citrus, crepe myrtle and palm trees. Cold temperatures with bright sun contribute to a condition called sunscald, which can damage tree health. You can use a cosmetic product for fixing faded bark on trees, but it is better to prevent the problem in the first place. Knowing how to color sun bleached trees will prevent the damage while allowing the natural beauty of the plant to shine through.

Is Unbleaching Tree Bark Necessary?

Sunscald is a common problem in home landscapes and orchards. Many tree growers paint the trunk with a latex based paint for sun bleach prevention, but where trees haven’t been treated the bark will lighten, dry and can crack.

You can, however, darken bleached out trees’ bark and protect the plants from sunscald, moisture loss and even insects with paint or tree wrap. Usually, a light color is used to help prevent sunscald, but you can use any light color for the same effect. Choose one that is tan, or even a light green, so it blends in with the landscape. Covering the trunk with the paint or tree wrap is easier than unbleaching tree bark.

Can You Darken a Tree That Has Been Sun Bleached?

If you failed to protect your tree from sunscald, the bark will be dry, white to light gray and may even be split or cracked. Once this happens, the remedy is basically cosmetic. So, can you darken a tree that has been sun bleached?

Unbleaching tree bark is impossible, but you can darken bleached out trees. You should use only products that allow the tree to breathe, so avoid the types of stains and waxes that are used on wood furniture. They will suffocate the tree, although they will darken the wood.

How to Color Sun Bleached Trees

There are formulations of tree paint available in nurseries and garden centers that come in natural colors or you can tint your own. Tinted latex paint is the easiest way to deepen trunk color. The bark will still be bleached under the coating, but the appearance will be more natural and prevent glaringly white trunks that don’t blend with the landscape.

A mixture of 1 gallon latex paint to 4 quarts of water coats easily adds the protection the tree needs from sunscald, as well as boring insects and rodents. Apply it by hand, brushing onto the wood. Spraying doesn’t penetrate as well or coat as evenly.

Another suggestion is a dilution of coffee or tea rubbed into the wood. It will fade in time but shouldn’t cause any harm to the plant.

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