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Tree & Shrub Winter Fertilization

Tree & Shrub Winter Fertilization

When it comes to fertilization, we all know our lawn needs extra care. But what about the rest of your landscape? Trees & shrubs are an essential part of our environment and our landscapes. They can add beauty and character to your yard. But for them to live and thrive, you need to keep them healthy and pest-free year-round. Tree & shrub treatments from a landscape professional can provide your plants with the nutrients they need for success.

Dormant Feeding of Trees & Shrubs

By definition, dormancy means a "state of reduced metabolic activity adopted by many organisms under conditions of environmental stress." Therefore, many interpret the meaning of "dormant feeding" related to plants to be "the application of fertilizers to the plant to maximize health during periods of slow growth." Even though the plant is slow-growing or dormant, it still needs the 4 basic elements to survive: air, water, sunlight, and nutrients. We'll come back to this. So even if the plants are not blooming or may appear to not be growing, they are actively growing below ground. The roots will grab the fertilizer quickly because they are very active. (Growth may slow if the ground freezes.)

Low Risk of Leaf Burn

First, you may be asking yourself 'What is leaf burn?' Leaf burn is the browning of leaves and yellowing of veins that leads to wilting and possible leaf drop. It can happen from soil compaction, transplant shock, nutrient deficiency, and even nutrient excess (over-fertilization).

Fortunately, trees and shrubs can be fertilized heavier in the fall and winter months without the risk of leaf burn. This is because, when temperatures start to drop, plants stop sending water and nutrients up to the leaves. Instead, the plant will use these nutrients to increase root mass and store up food for the winter. By fertilizing this time of year, you allow the shrubs and trees to store food as it sees fit for next year's growth. So, even with heavier fertilization during the cooler months, there is a low risk of leaf burn.

Elements Needed For Survival

We said we'd come back to the four basic elements a plant needs to survive. Again, the elements needed are air, water, sun, and nutrients. We can't control the air or sunlight, unfortunately, but we can supplement water, as needed, and provide nutrients. Four nutrients come from water and air. The other nutrients have to be culturally added and include:


  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium


  • Boron
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Molybdenum
  • Sulfur
  • Zinc

The professionals at Turf Masters Lawn Care have developed their own custom-blend fertilizer for shrubs and trees which includes these 10 nutrients. It's kind of like a pack of vitamins for the plant. And this fertilizer can't be purchased at a retailer.

Fertilizer: Liquid vs. Granules

At Turf Masters Lawn Care, rather than applying liquid fertilizer product to the ground or on the foliage, we use a granular, slow-release fertilizer. We apply the solid pieces directly to the ground around the plant. The granular fertilizer breaks down over time and feeds the plant from the surface down. The granules can feed the plant through early spring because they last longer than liquid. Any excess nutrients are stored in the roots and become immediately available when needed for new growth. So if you think fertilizing in the fall and winter is too early, you may want to rethink that. By fertilizing this time of year, you are setting up the plant to have proper nutrients through the winter.

Why Fertilize?

Even if your shrub or tree doesn't bloom, it still needs the nutrients. Some benefits of fertilization include:

  • Vigorous growth (but not only top growth)
  • Development of stronger and healthier root system
  • Restoring nutrients from the soil
  • Diminishing stress

Professional Tree & Shrub Care

Turf Masters Lawn Care is not only an expert in lawn care-we're experts in tree and shrub care too. For fall and winter fertilization, we use a special granular product fertilizer crafted by our experts that is balanced with slow-release material and a micronutrient package, providing everything plants will need for the season. Our fertilizer promotes root development, vigor, blooms, color, and overall health without promoting excessive top growth, and therefore unnecessary pruning.

Let the pros at Turf Masters get your shrubs and trees looking as good as your lawn. Contact us today for a free Tree & Shrub Care Program estimate!