I’m a big fan of anti-desiccant. That’s why I post a reminder every fall. It’s clean, easy to apply and protects evergreens very well. Best of all you don’t have to wrap burlap around most trees and shrubs protected by anti-desiccant.
Although it’s November already, you can still apply anti-desiccant. Just don’t pick a day that’s too hot (over 50ºF) or too cold (below freezing). It’s a wax like material that becomes too runny in the heat and too firm in the cold.
If anti-desiccant is new to you, let me introduce you to it. Anti-desiccant is sold in garden centers in pump bottles. The best known brand is Wilt-Pruf. Landscape and Plant Health Care professionals buy in bulk and apply it with truck-mounted or backpack sprayers.
Unlike deciduous trees and shrubs that go dormant in winter, conifers and broadleaf evergreens’ life functions continue through the winter, although at a slower pace. Normally, water and nutrients are absorbed by the roots, and are taken up the tree where they become part of the photosynthetic reaction. Water is then given off through the leaves or needles to remove heat from the tree. This is called transpiration.
When the ground is frozen in winter, the roots can’t absorb water, so the plant reabsorbs the water given off in transpiration and reuses it. However, the wind often blows the drops of water off the leaves before they can be reabsorbed. Anti-desiccant keeps the wind from blowing the transpired water away.
Unprotected evergreens branches can develop brown spots, or even turn entirely brown and die when they can’t reabsorb enough transpired water. The only treatment is to cut out the brown foliage and dead branches.
Applying anti-desiccant to one or two evergreen shrubs yourself can be a good DIY project. But I recommend professional application for properties with a number of evergreens, especially large conifer trees. You’ll actually save money over buying all those small bottles. And your hand will feel better than it would squeezing the trigger on all of those bottles.
While there’s still time apply anti-desiccant, you never know when the weather will turn cold, drop below freezing and stay there. Conversely, if we get a January thaw and the temperature rises above 50ºF and stays there, your plants may need a touch up. But it’s a good investment.