Why do my broadleaf evergreens look so bad this spring?
Winter Drying on Boxwood
Broadleaved evergreens like hollies, magnolias, boxwoods, and rhododendrons have been beaten up this past winter and are looking pretty ragged coming into spring. Winter drying is the culprit and was expected based upon what kind of winter we just went through. The discoloration occurs because of the plants leaves dry out during frozen ground conditions. This means that the soil around the roots remained frozen for an extended period of time and the plant could not take up needed moisture to maintain the foliage. While the soil was frozen and no uptake of water was taking place the winds were still evaporating moisture from the foliage resulting in the burnt or scorched appearance.
Winter Drying on Magnolia
Winter Drying on Holly
The unfortunate thing is there is not a lot of options for dealing with the problem after it happens. We generally see very little long term effects from this problem. Usually the worse case is some twig die-back and an un-thrifty appearance to the plant for awhile. Generally they will put new leaves back on and resume normal appearance as the spring continues to improve. Patience will be the order of the spring to get back to a more lush landscape. To read more about how to manage this problem next winter read the following: Leaf Scorch and Winter Drying of Woody Plants