Fairway Green, Inc
9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14 Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone: (908) 281-7888

Anti-Desiccants: Everything You Wanted to Know About Protecting your Plants During Cold Weather

What is desiccation?

In biology and ecology, desiccation refers to the drying out of a living organism. In your landscape plants, winter desiccation injury occurs when plants lose moisture from the leaves and do not have the ability to absorb water from the frozen soil. This moisture loss may cause your plant’s leaves and stems to dry out, resulting in discoloration of leaves and even death to stems and branches.

What is an anti-desiccant spray?

An anti-desiccant is a material applied to the foliage of evergreen plants to slow the rate at which moisture is lost.

How is an anti-desiccant spray applied?

An anti-desiccant, also called “anti-transparent” is a liquid spray.  It is applied using a pump system which moves the material through a hose end sprayer.  The liquid is sprayed onto the foliage until it is completely covered and there is slight run off of material.  It will take about two to four hours for the material to dry.  Once dry, it adheres to the target area and is in place to protect your plants.

Here is a video of anti-desiccant being applied:

How long will an anti-desiccant spray last?

Anti-desiccants are typically applied in November and December, and will last for a couple of months. The material gradually wears off and will be gone by springtime. In areas that experience cold harsh winters, like New Jersey, multiple treatments are recommended to ensure the material is in place to protect the plant all winter long.

Do I need an anti-desiccant spray?

If you live in New Jersey and have broadleaf evergreens (plants that keep their foliage all winter) then the answer is yes.  New Jersey can have drastic fluctuations in temperature as well as high winds during the winter, both of which can accelerate moisture loss in plants.  Anti-desiccant applications are very beneficial for plants exposed to wind and/or full sun that will lose moisture faster than ones which are protected from the wind and in shade.

Warning- Not all plants should get anti-desiccant treatments. Do not spray an anti-desiccant on waxy-blue conifers such as blue spruce.

What can I do to protect my plants from winter injury?

The first step is an anti-desiccant application.  This will help your plants hold moisture by providing protection against evaporation and slowing down moisture loss. It will also protect the foliage from accelerated moisture loss due to wind.  This spray will break down over time, so it’s a good idea to have the trees and shrubs treated regularly in the winter to extend the anti-desiccant spray longevity.

Next, you may wrap your plants with burlap.  For small plants, you may wrap the burlap over or around the plants and secure it with twine.  For moderate to large plants, you may drive stakes into the ground around the plant and then secure the burlap to the stakes using staples. This creates a “screen” or “windbreak” around the plant.  Burlap and stakes can be purchased from most garden centers, improvement stores, nurseries and co-ops.

There are also rolls of tape that can be purchased to wrap around the bark of smaller trees.  This will help reduce splitting of the bark that can be caused by large changes in temperature during the winter.  Split bark can cause damage or disease to the interior (cambium) of the tree, leading to permanent injury or death.

Water the plants throughout the fall even as it gets cooler out.  In the fall, plants are still growing and require good soil moisture to do so.  Keeping the soil around the roots moist until the ground freezes will ensure the plants have adequate moisture going into the winter.

Another helpful tip is maintaining proper mulch levels in your landscape beds.  2 to 3 inches of mulch will insulate the soil and help regulate soil temperatures throughout the year.  Please note that mulch should not be piled high on the trunk of trees or covering the shrubs. This will lead to decay and damage in the future.

Conclusion

An anti-desiccant treatment should be applied to your broadleaf evergreens prior to and in many cases during the winter months to minimize moisture loss.  Minimizing moisture loss will not only maintain the look of your landscape throughout the winter but will also reduce stress on your plants.  In areas with high wind, like New Jersey, a burlap wrap is also recommended for certain broadleaf evergreens which are susceptible to winter damage.  It is best you do everything you can to protect your landscape from winter damage and overall plant health going into the winter can play a key role. Improve your plant’s health during the year with proper cultural practices and regular fertilization to maintain a beautiful landscape.

If you are in our service area and have any questions about protecting your plants this winter, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888

9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14, Hillsborough, NJ 08844 United States | (908) 281-7888
Phone: (908) 281-7888