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Why You Should Wrap Your Trees for Winter

Winter tree wrapping, burlap wrap on thin trunk

It’s that time of year: when the cold winds blow, the leaves have fallen, and trees begin to look…like burlap-wrapped blobs. What’s the reason for wrapping trees in the winter? How will winter tree wrapping help your trees? Here are a few reasons to wrap trees during cold months, and what you should know about tree wrapping.

What are the benefits of tree wrapping?

Do trees need to be kept warm, and why? Actually, the main purpose of tree wrapping is preventing…sunburn. 

Say what? Sunscald is a condition that can affect trees in the winter. It’s caused by dramatic temperature shifts. On a sunny winter day, the sun warms the bark, warming the tissue underneath. When the sun fades, the temperature drops, the bark cools off, potentially damaging the tissue and causing cracking and drying out in the bark.

This particularly affects trees with thin bark. A related issue can occur with evergreen trees. Sun warms the green needles, but temperature drops can cause needles to dry out and turn brown or drop.

Sunscald will seldom kill a tree (although this can be a risk with very young trees), but the resulting bark damage can leave a tree vulnerable to insect damage and decay. There are also aesthetic effects of cracked and peeling bark.

Tree wrapping can also help shield trees from the effects of strong winter winds if you have trees in an exposed windy area.

Which Type of Trees Should You Wrap?

So, which type of trees do you need to worry about wrapping? Sunscald can particularly affect new young trees and thin-barked trees

Ash, maple, linden, birch, box elder, and fruit trees are all thinner-barked trees that benefit from wrapping. Japanese maples are especially a popular choice to wrap as a thin-barked ornamental tree.

Newly planted trees, trees planted late in the season, and young trees in their first few years, can all benefit from winter wrapping. Over time older trees develop thicker bark and become stronger.

For evergreens, cedars are a common type of tree to wrap. Balsam fir, Douglas fir, spruce, and eastern white pine are also vulnerable to sunscald.

What Types of Tree Wrapping Are There?

There are a variety of tree wrapping products available. Thin fabric wraps, plastics, brown paper wrapping and burlap wrap are all common types. Plastic guards can be useful for some thin trees and used again the next season. Commercial paper and fabric tree wraps are typically around a few inches wide and sold in spools. 

Burlap is a popular choice for evergreens. It should be loosely wrapped around trees and secured with twine at the top, bottom, and middle.

When Should You Wrap Trees?

Late November is a good time to wrap trees. Don’t wrap trees tightly when using commercial wraps: wrapping needs to allow for air circulation. Paper and fabric wraps can either be secured with twine or some are able to be folded in at the ends. If you need help wrapping your trees, arborists are experts in getting trees dressed for winter and can provide the best recommendations for your plants and property.

When Do You Unwrap Trees?

Ah, spring. The trees are budding, the birds are singing…It seems a long way off right now, but it will come! Tree wrap should be removed in early spring, when winter storms have ended (or most of them — no need to wait to make sure there’s no last May snowstorm). When other trees start budding, it’s time to remove wrapping. Leaving wrap on too long can create moist conditions for infestations and disease. Late March to early April is the best time to remove wrap.

Need help preparing your yard for winter? Contact Vista Tree for all your tree care needs

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