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Common Winter Shrub Issues

Common Winter Shrub Issues

While some enjoy the cool weather of winter, the low temperatures can sometimes create issues for plants, including lawns, trees and shrubs. Because we have fairly mild winters here in the southeast, fortunately, we don't have to worry about extended periods of freezing or below freezing temperatures, or plant damage due to the weight of snow on the branches for multiple days. But despite our moderate winters, there are a few issues that shrubs can face in this season.

First, hopefully you have the appropriate plants for our US Hardiness Zone in your landscape: zones 7 or 8 based on your location. Now, let's discuss some common issues that your shrubs may deal with. We'll go into greater detail for each and talk about the plants that can be affected.

Shrub Issues in Winter

  • Winter bronzing
  • Leaf yellowing
  • Holly leaf spot

Winter Bronzing

Winter bronzing is a condition that affects boxwoods and many evergreens like arborvitae, cypress and cryptomeria. With this condition, the plant leaves lose chlorophyll due to cold wind, full sun and the lower temperatures, and turn a bronze color. The more stressed a plant is, the more serious the winter bronzing can be. But the good news is the condition is only temporary. When temperatures rise, the leaves will return to a normal green color and new growth will start. For an extra boost of nutrients to help shrubs recover from winter bronzing, consider professional tree & shrub care from Turf Masters Lawn Care. The fertilizer with the micro-nutrients we apply as part of our annual program will aid in plant recovery when the weather warms.

Leaf Yellowing

A common environmental condition-and it's really more of a natural process-is leaf yellowing. The lower and inner leaves of azaleas, rhododendrons, gardenias, and even weather-stressed evergreen shrubs will commonly turn yellow and may drop off. This can be alarming to homeowners and many think the plant is dying. It is not. The plant no longer needs these old, less important leaves. When the temperatures rise in the spring, the shrub will grow new, healthy, green leaves. Just as with winter bronzing, Turf Masters' Tree & Shrub Care program can aid in these plants recovering with new growth and green color.

Photo credit: LSU Ag Center

Holly Leaf Spot

Another issue that you may deal with in your landscape in the winter is holly leaf spot. Holly Leaf spot, found only on hollies as it's name eludes, is caused by the fungus Coniothyrium ilicinum. It consists of small to large irregularly shaped spots, on the leaves of the plant, yellow to brown to black in color. Fortunately, this holly disease is not life threatening to the plant and really only affects the look of the plant-not the livelihood of it. The holly can recover with a little work on the homeowner's part. Here are some tips.

Tips for Treatment & Prevention

Common Winter Shrub Issues
Holly leaf spot, Photo credit: University of Massachusetts
  • Prune - Prune and thin out some branches for better air circulation and allow sunlight to reach the plant.
  • Water - Water the hollies early in the day so they have a chance to dry throughout the day.
  • Remove - Gently shake the plant to encourage the leaves to fall. Discard the fallen leaves. Refrain from placing the leaves in compost or anywhere they could infect other trees.
  • Treat - This one may be best left to the experts. Proper, professional holly plant care by Turf Masters, which includes the appropriate fertilization and disease control fungicides, is the best way to prevent and manage holly disease.

As you can see, none of these common winter shrub issues will kill the plant. But fortunately, you can take preventative measures to prevent winter bronzing, leaf yellowing and holly leaf spot. Having year-round shrub fertilization, disease and insect control from a professional lawn care company is the best prevention against these and other issues.

Contact Turf Masters today for your free shrub and tree analysis.