Painting trunks white

mrsg47(7)March 7, 2013

Hi all, my trees have been in the ground for five, four, three and two years, with five new trees arriving this spring. I have never painted a trunk white, as I really like the look of natural bark in my small private orchard. All of the 'pick your own orchards' in my area have no white trunks.

Am I missing something important that should be done? Painting the trunks white? thanks, Mrs. G

PS My orchard faces south (its primary sun direction) gets sun from 9am to 4pm.) all summer long.

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The white paint is supposed to keep the trunks from sunburn, and discourage borers. If you haven't had any issues with either...

That said, I paint mine.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 8:20PM
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I spray for borers and I do not know how to identify sunburn.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 9:15PM
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Sorry to bring up an old thread. I looked up an old thread that answered my question. No need for me to paint my trees. Thanks

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 9:24PM
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dmtaylor(5a (WI))

Agreed. I have researched this previously and in aggregate it appears there is really no advantage to painting the tree trunks. It probably doesn't hurt anything, but most likely it doesn't help anything either. In my mind, that equates to a waste of time and energy. So I decided (last year) not to paint my trees.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 9:05AM
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alan haigh

Actually Cornell has found benefit in terms of discouraging borers. It can work as well as toxic intervention with the best of such materials, as I recall.

That said, I don't think it is usually worth the looks and effort in a home orchard situation although if it works as well for peach borer as it does for apple (often dogwood) borers it might be worth painting the bottom 9" of them. Same for plums.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 9:53AM
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Thanks H-man for the info. Just really don't like the look of white paint in a natural setting. :( I keep current with my spraying sched. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:30AM
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Many years ago at the first orchard I worked at, we had issues with SW Winter injury on very young apple trees
that had smooth, light colored bark. At that time this
was primarily on golden delicious. Someone from the
local univeristy suggested we paint the trunks with interior white latex paint or wrap the bark of the young trees to prevent this.

We painted and it worked! I suspect Honeycrisp would fit
into this catagory also as very light colored bark. My young honeycrisp are wrapped in plastic spiral tree guards to prevent this.

Here at the commercial nursery I work at we sometimes have this same issue on young maple trees that have smooth bark. Once the bark is old, it is not an issue.

The injury supposedly occurs when the the temps are below zero and the sun is from the west late in the day thus warming up the SW side of the trunk. Once the sun sets, the temperature of the bark drops rapidly leading to cell damage. The rapidly fluctuating temperature is what is supposed to be causing the issue.

What you will find later is the bark on the west side of the
trunk bubbling/peeling off. Again it seems to affect trees
with smooth young bark more than old corky bark.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 11:30AM
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Spartan, excellent, thanks so much.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:38PM
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I thought painting the bark white was something that was done in areas that get a solid snowcover in the winter. When the sun gets higher in March, the bright sun reflecting off the white snow could damage young trees on the south and west-facing part of the trunk. If you don't have snow cover, not much sun reflecting off the brown ground, so no need to paint white.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 12:40PM
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alan haigh

My nursery in southeastern NY has no issues with SW injury on any trees in recent years without paint. I suspect milder winters reduce threat.

Had a peach get it once but it just kept growing in spite of the crack. No uglier than white paint and if the tree was complaining at least I couldn't hear it. They probably find the white paint very embarrassing.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 1:14PM
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Pink paint just might be worse!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 5:04PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

OMG! Pink? I actually like the look of the white bark, so I'll go with it for sunburn and borer protection in Hot So California!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 11:39PM
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I painted my apples. I live in ND and we often have late frosts that can damage fruit tree blossoms. Ive heard that painting keeps the trunk and heavy branches cool longer, delaying budding and flowering slightly. Anyone else have experience with this?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 2:25PM
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FWIW, since I started painting the trunks and lower limbs white I have not had any sun injury or lost young trees. Prior I typically had only a 50% winter survival on newly planted trees.

However I am in a location which get quite intense sun during the winter and early spring, with wide temp swings. People without these conditions may not need to worry...

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 1:10AM
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gator_rider2(z8 Ga.)

Sun-scald I live in Sunbelt it cook southwest side young tree in February are March just few days during this time once bark thicken very seldom happens. On young trees I keep trees growing fast bark always thin and stretching marks the white paint reflex rays and trunk cooler 2 to 3 pm on sunny day. If outside during this time your skin feel this hot rays go to tree take hand place on southwest side trunk young tree it make brain say go get paint now dummy. You can live in area thats shaded by tree line are buildings mountains as sun this time year is low to south this make poor judgement for other folks.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 6:18AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I agree with gator_rider2. I was amazed at how hot the bark can get on a warm spring day, the cherries were the worst with their dark trunks. I got white tree wrap from the big box and that helped.

I think you will know if you should paint/wrap just by feeling the temp of the trunks in spring. The fluctuation is the problem because the sap starts to flow and then freezes and breaks open the tender bark of a new tree and it can ooze to death.

Here in Colorado it's not just young trees but most trees, especially maples. A main branch should always be left low on the south side so the trunk is shaded, and that means all year, not just spring.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 11:17AM
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