We are seeing a number of different types of trees and shrubs that have apparently suffered damage or died over the Winter. It seems that the most affected are those shrubs that retain their leaves over the winter such as Boxwoods, Euonymus, Holly, Azaleas and Rhododendron. But some plants seem to have just up and died. Japanese Maples seem to be particularly hard hit as well.

boxwood winter injuryThe Boxwoods shown in the photo are an ‘extreme’ example. These shrubs should be fairly dark green in color. The red arrow points to the color these shrubs should be. These Boxwoods will not recover and will need to be removed and replaced.

While any winter can be stressful to certain trees and shrubs, this past winter was particularly devastating with its 30 to 60° below zero wind chills. This is why we tell folks to water trees and shrubs going into December if we experience a dry Fall. It is important to fully hydrate plants prior to ground freeze to limit possible damage.  At the very least, we recommend not planting Boxwoods. They seem to suffer damage far more frequently than any other plant.

Note…Any time you see winter damage on plants, don’t be hasty and remove them. Hand snipping will remove whatever browning exists and then wait to see what new growth appears in Spring and early Summer. If the damage is minor and the plant is still aesthetically pleasing to you, you won’t need to remove it.

On a separate note, we are also telling folks to avoid planting any Spruce trees because of the growing Rhizosphaera Needle Cast situation which we mentioned several times last season. If you need evergreen or pine type recommendations, we suggest planting Hemlocks and White Pine in more shady areas and Concolor Fir, Vanderwolf and/or White Fir in more sunny areas. Avoid Blue Spruce or Colorado Green Spruce.

Fall Colors May Not Be Vivid This Year

We took this photo the other day. We’d say drought conditions currently exist.  And because of that, colors may not be as brilliant this fall.

Our trees are under a lot of stress. Back in June, we had the driest 22 day period in record keeping history for DuPage County. July was under average for precipitation and between August 1st and today, we’ve only had 2.4 inches of rain.

We should all do what we can to water our lawns now so that when the rains do come, the ground is more able to absorb and accept it. If the ground is rock hard, most of the rain that falls will ‘sheet off’ to lower areas which might make trees go into the Winter too dry. Be sure to water root systems up until ground freeze should it stay unusually dry.  Click here to review the proper way to water your trees and shrubs.

Trees whose roots extend under dry lawn are really suffering right now. Shrubs and small trees, however, that are completely mulched in to their drip lines are under less stress as the mulch will help to retain soil moisture and deflect the sun. The exception is trees that were planted in the last 2 years. Pay particular attention to these trees even if they are mulched.

We have been getting several calls about tree leaves shriveling, drying out and dropping early. Some trees just look thin and sick. Watering now will begin to help. In addition, trees need water to display their best Fall colors.

Over 80% of our clients are scheduled for Fall High Pressure Root Fertilization  which is the most important thing you can do for your trees. We strongly recommend that you consider it!

We hope you take a moment to absorb the Fall beauty around us, even if colors may seem muted this year.

Water Your Trees!


This last Saturday we heard WGN’s Tom Skilling say that the previous 17 days have been the driest 17 days on record in Chicago since the 1920’s. Considering this takes into account one of the worst droughts on record in Chicago back in 2012, that’s really saying something! It has now been 20 days since our last rainfall.

We’ve had some rain this week but the ground is so dry that any rain we got may have run off or had trouble soaking in to the ground. It may take two or three rains before the ground softens up enough to allow rainfall to effectively reach tree roots. We recommend that you water your more established key trees with a broad spectrum sprinkler that will reach from the trunk all the way to the outer drip line.

On any newer trees that were planted within the last two years, it is important to note that these trees haven’t re-developed their root systems from being dug, balled and burlapped. They have far less water absorption and water storage capacity. On these trees, an open-ended hose should be laid right at the base of the tree and allowed to run on a trickle setting for 30 to 45 minutes to really soak the root ball. On trees planted this year you should be doing this once a week all Summer long and into the Fall. On two year old plantings, once every 10 to 14 days is recommended.

TREES THAT TREE GREEN TRUNK INJECTED THIS YEAR: If we have trunk injected your Ash, White Birch or Scotch or Austrian Pine trees this year with insecticides or your River Birch or Oaks with iron, it will help these trees to move the product internally if you water them now.

WHEN SHOULD YOU WATER AND FOR HOW LONG? We suggest that you water in the early to late evening or early morning, not in the middle of the day as the sun will cause a lot of evaporation before the water can soak in.

Water each area or zone at least one hour; longer if you don’t mind the water bill. An hour may not give the tree all the water it needs but it will help to soften the ground and prepare it for rain.