Winter Damage To Cedars: Repairing Winter Damage On Cedar Trees

Cedar Tree Covered In Snow
cedar winter
(Image credit: AshleyStocker)

Are you seeing dead needles appear on the outer edges of your cedars? This could be symptomatic of winter damage to cedars. Winter cold and ice can result in winter damage to trees and shrubs, including Blue Atlas cedar, deodar cedar, and Lebanon cedar. You may not see the evidence of freeze damage until after temperatures warm and growth starts up again. Read on for information about cedar trees and winter damage.

Cedar Trees and Winter Damage

Cedars are evergreen conifers with needle-like leaves that stay on the tree all winter long. The trees go through “hardening off” in the autumn to prepare them for winter’s worst. The trees close down growth and slow transpiration and consumption of nutrients. You need to think about cedar trees and winter damage after you experience a few warm days in winter. Winter damage to cedars occurs when cedars are warmed all day by the winter sun. Cedar trees damaged in winter are those that receive enough sunshine to make the needle cells thaw.

Cedar Trees Damaged in Winter

Winter damage to trees and shrubs happens the same day the foliage thaws. The temperature drops at night and the needle cells freeze again. They burst as they refreeze and, in time, die off. This results in the winter damage to cedars you see in spring, like dead foliage. Read on for information about the steps you should take to begin repairing winter damage on cedar.

Repairing Winter Damage on Cedar Trees

You won’t be able to tell immediately if the weather has caused winter damage to trees and shrubs since all cedars lose some needles in fall. Don’t take any action to start repairing winter damage on cedar trees until you can inspect the new spring growth. Instead of pruning in spring, fertilize the trees with landscape tree food, then apply a liquid feeder to the foliage daily during April and May. At some point in June, evaluate any winter damage that may be present. You can do this by scratching the stems of the cedars to see if the tissue beneath is green. Prune back any branches where the tissue is brown. Cut back each branch to healthy stems with green tissue. Once you have removed the winter damage to your trees and shrubs, prune the cedars to shape them. Cedars usually grow in an uneven pyramid shape and, as you cut, you should follow that shape. Leave the low branches long, then shorten the branch length as you move toward the top of the tree.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.