Protecting Your Landscape from Wyoming Winter

Help Your Plants Survive the Long Wyoming Winter

A Wyoming winter is both beautiful and brutal — for both people and plants. But you can take some steps to ensure that your landscaping recovers quickly and with minimal damage.

For instance, shrubs and other ornamentals can be protected from heavy snowfalls by erecting wooden tepees over the plants. Alternatively, you can gently sweep off the snow after each snowfall by using a broom in an upward motion. (It’s important to remove the snow carefully before it melts and refreezes.)

The Problem with Salt

winterTrees and shrubs located along roadways and driveways need to be protected from excess road salt. Salt damage results in stunted and yellowed foliage, premature autumn leaf coloration, and twig dieback.

And it may not be evident until late winter or early spring when temperatures warm up.

Salt in melting water saturates the soil, increasing the soil’s salt content. Roots find it harder to take in water as the salt levels increase. In fact, at elevated salt levels, water within the root can actually be drawn out of the plant.

What to do? When shoveling snow from walkways and drives, be careful not to pile it near plants or where melting snow will drain.  After the snow melts, use fresh water to flush the area around the roots of any plants that were exposed to salt.

In addition, salt spray from passing autos can also cause severe damage to stems or foliage. Erecting a burlap screen between plants and pavement can protect these plants from airborne salt.

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You can keep from contributing to the salt problem by using a more environmentally friendly alternative. Sand, sawdust, bird seed, vermiculite or kitty litter can provide the traction you need to make walks and driveways just as safe.

Preventing Sunscald

Have you ever heard of “sunscald injury”? It’s a common problem with young trees  that have dark-colored bark or think bark layers.

Sunscald generally occurs on the south side of the trunk, whenever there are sudden day and nighttime temperature extremes. The sun heats the south side of the trunk, encouraging cells to expand, while the north side of the trunk stays cool. Then when the sun sets, the bark on the south side suddenly contracts and the bark splits.

The wound creates stress for the tree and can lead to insect and disease infestations.

But you can easily prevent this type of injury by placing tree wrap around the trunk and lower limbs. The wrap reflects the sunlight away from the bark surface and moderates the temperature fluctuation. Protective tree wrap is available in several types: burlap, paper, plastic, and vinyl are the most popular kinds. Start at the bottom of the tree and wrap upwards.

Remember to remove the wraps in the spring after the last frost. Otherwise, tree suckers and fungus can hide under the wrap during the spring and summer months, resulting in damage to your tree.

A Few More Tips

A few more suggestions to help your landscape survive a brutal Wyoming winter:

  1. winterTree limbs that have been damaged by ice or snow should be pruned off promptly to prevent bark from tearing. (It’s always best to allow ice to melt naturally from plants, as attempting to remove it may damage plants further.)
  2. Avoid foot traffic on frozen lawns, as turf grasses can easily be injured when frozen.
  3. In any areas of your landscape where the snow cover is poor, you might need to add a layer of straw or other mulch around your perennials.  Or use boughs from your discarded Christmas tree to cover these plants.
  4. While you’re at it, why not add a little color to your winter landscape? Recycle your old Christmas tree by stringing garlands of peanuts, popcorn, cranberries, fruits and suet through the boughs. Voila! The perfect feeding station to attract winter birds.


Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

University of Vermont Extension

Missouri Botanical Gardens


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