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Your Anti Desiccant Reminder

Protect your evergreens to prevent dieback.

Anti desiccant is the best winter protection you can provide for your evergreen trees and shrubs. Besides keeping them from drying out from winter winds, this wax like material also lets you enjoy your plant’s beauty and color against the season’s white background. Best of all, it’s economical and easy to apply.

There’s a good biological reason for applying anti desiccant to your evergreens. In winter, both conifers and broadleaf evergreens slow down their life functions. It could be compared to animals like bears hibernating. Unlike deciduous plants, evergreens don’t go completely dormant. 

Evergreens’ leaves or needles continue to manufacture food through the energy trapping process of photosynthesis. That process requires water, which is normally absorbed by the roots and transported to the leaves by the plant’s xylem. Water, also a byproduct of the process, is given off through the leaves. This is called transpiration.

When the ground is frozen, the roots can’t absorb water, so the plant reabsorbs transpired water and recycles it during photosynthesis. This is fine until the wind blows. Wind picks up transpired water and carries it away before it can be reabsorbed. When this occurs, photosynthesis shuts down and the affected leaves, needles and branches die. 

Desiccated leaves and branches turn brown. Rarely does the whole plant die. It just has ugly brown patches, and the only remedy is to cut out the deadwood. This affects the aesthetics of an otherwise graceful, beautiful evergreen.

Before anti desiccant was introduced, wrapping the plant in burlap was the only protection available. Instead of islands of green punctuating the sea of snow, drab brown stood out like shrouded statues. There’s still a need for burlap wraps but only for plants affected by salty road spray, young trees and shrubs that are still getting established, or tender plants that may be near the limit of their hardiness zone.

Garden centers and home stores sell anti desiccant in spray bottles. The most familiar brand is Wilt Pruf, and it’s in easily recognized green bottles. Buying one or two of these bottles to apply to a couple of evergreen shrubs is a good DIY project. Buy any more and your hand will let you know how hard it is to squeeze those spray triggers. 

For properties with many or large evergreens like towering conifer trees, it’s more economical and efficient for one of our Plant Health Care professionals to apply anti desiccant. We buy it in bulk, which is considerably less than buying those consumer-size containers at retail, and you don’t have to worry about properly disposing of the empty containers. Our PHC pros apply anti desiccant with backpack sprayers that have enough pressure to reach the tops of tall trees.There’s a relatively short window of opportunity to apply anti desiccant. The temperature needs to be consistently near 40ºF but not down to freezing. If it’s too warm, it melts, too cold and it coagulates. If we get sustained warm spells during the winter, additional applications may be necessary. Nothing needs to be done in spring. The anti desiccant just melts when the weather warms up.

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