Hemlock Wind Burn Browning

john314159March 16, 2009

Planted two beautiful Canadian Hemlocks and a dwarf hemlock on the shady (during the summer) west side of my house last summer. They were doing beautifully going into the winter. It is now mid March and in the last few weeks all the south facing branches have turned brown and appear to be dead. I know this is wind burn / winter kill from warm winds and frozen grounds. My question is are these branches totally dead or will the needles come back. Also how do I treat / winterize hemlocks to prevent this. I watered them well before the ground froze for the winter.

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I would tend to think that your problem is both sun and wind. There is a good chance that new needles will grow if the stems are still 'green'. Check for live stems by scratching the surface of the branch with a thumbnail. If there is still a green colour under the bark, the stem is still alive. Like most trees, there are dormant buds under the surface that should grow this spring. With regards to avoiding this problem...this fall as temperatures start to freeze, wrap the plants with burlap. Or at the very least you can stake a fence of burlap around the South/West of the plant to shade and provide some wind deflection. Be sure to water well before winter sets in. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 4:13PM
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Hi John ~ Geez, I could have written the exact question you asked. I'm in Lakeville and had the same thing happen (same facings and all). I was in Bachman's the other day and they told me to fertilize later in April and keep watering and watching and it may come back. It was strange ... I actually planted 3 hemlocks in the same area and only 1 suffered.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 3:05PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Conifers can be a bit sensitive their first winter as their root system is not developed enough for the exposed leaves (needles). Fortunately, hemlocks are among the few conifers that do have dormant buds and like foghorn1 said, if the branch is still alive there is still a chance. Never, ever, ever fertilize a stressed tree. Especially conifers. They don't need it. Period. You want root growth to supply the branches. Nitrogen forces top growth for a root system that can't handle what's there already. South side browning is sunburn and has nothing to do with fertility.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 9:50PM
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Thanks for all the tips. I am anxiously awaiting warmer weather to see if the dormant buds will grow and the dead needles will drop. I called Gertens and they might replace them. Since they are B and Bs and too big to take in, I will have to take some pics for Gertens to look at. I will surely put up the burlap next fall. Once I have system in place it should only take a few minutes.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2009 at 1:27PM
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the Canadian Hemlocks in my yard are fairly tall, so it would be difficult to do burlap screens. I originally planted them because I wanted an evergreen screen and the area has shade trees. With the openness in winter to the south sun, all four experienced sever browning (they look dead). Do you have a suggestion for another evergreen that will do well in summer shade?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 12:32PM
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