Can the weather damage trees and shrubs?
Posted on: April 30th, 2018
To say the UK weather has been a little 'volatile' in recent weeks is something of an understatement. We've gone from snow and ice to record high temperatures; sweltering heat to gale force winds and heavy rain!
And these massive weather fluctuations inevitably affect trees and shrubs.
You may have noticed brown leaves, wilting or dieback in your trees and shrubs and attributed the damage to attacks from pests or disease. In fact, most of the time, it is as a result of the weather.
Symptoms of weather damage may take weeks – if not months – to be noticeable in a plant but it is important to check regularly. If you see damage or disfigurement, consider the weather over the preceding months before automatically assuming it's down to other causes.
It is important to note that in most cases, the cold temperature itself is not the issue – it is the rapid rise and fall in temperatures that leave trees and plants vulnerable.
Symptoms of weather damage
Wind, hail, frost, snow, heatwaves and other extreme weather events can affect trees and shrubs at any time of the year. Common symptoms and causes of weather damage include:
- Physical damage to the tree or shrub: breakage, abrasions, tears and leaning are usually caused by high winds
- Leaf and bud drop: frost, wind damage, a lack of moisture or fluctuating growing conditions between bud formation and flowering can lead to leaves and buds dropping from the tree or shrub.
- Dieback: you may notice this on shoots or entire plants. Something is stopping moisture from reaching the affected areas, which may be attributed to drought, water-logging, fungal root disease or pests
- Creased leaves: stop-go growth occurs with fluctuating temperatures and soil conditions
- Stressed or injured trees: extreme temperature fluctuation means that trees are unable to acclimatise to the new temperature. Plants that are dormant and unacclimatised can suffer as a result
- Evergreen winterburn: when water is lost in a tree through winter sun and winds, the tree begins to dry out. If water in the roots and stems then freeze in cold temperatures, the tree is unable to replenish this much-needed moisture. This is called winterburn
- New tree tissue damage: spring frosts can damage trees and shrubs that are de-acclimatising after the winter, causing new tissue to wither
- Evergreen browning and scorching: salt applied to road surfaces in icy conditions can absorb a great deal of the ground's moisture, and damage the roots of nearby trees
How to combat weather damage in your trees and shrubs
You want your trees to remain healthy all year round. There are various steps you can take to prevent – or at least minimise – weather damage to your trees and shrubs:
- Plant trees and shrubs in well-drained soil conditions
- Use mulch to protect roots
- Check soil moisture on a regular basis
- Use an anti-transpirant to prevent evergreen winterburn
- Use wind breaks to protect your trees and shrubs from damaging or drying conditions