Four Tips You Need to Not Kill Your Broad-Leaved Evergreens this Winter

Of all the broad-leaved evergreens, the azalea may be the most sought after. Sure, every time a bell rings a thousand boxwood are planted somewhere, but boxwoods are more needed as a transitionary component in a landscape than sought after for any showy characteristic. The magnolia is another fine broad-leaved plant whose beauty in bloom is not diminished by the squishy pink and brown lawn litter that the flowers result in – the fallen petals actually looks nice. In the neighbor’s lawn. Or across the street.

But the azalea. A spring drive through some St. Louis neighborhoods could lead one to believe that azaleas re-seed themselves, or that ten of them come free with the purchase of an iPhone. And hollies. Jiminy! Azaleas and hollies. Wildly popular, but have you noticed their condition when the blooms are done and the lawns are raked? Kinda scrappy, at best.

Broad-leaved evergreens can provide some of the most stunning spring blooms and some of the only winter color but without a little extra attention, they won’t stun for long and winter will bear down on them like the Grinch on Christmas. But fear not! Here are four tips to keep your broad-leaved evergreens showy and full.

1. Protect them

As noted in some of the following pictures (the ugly ones) winter can inflict some serious pain on broad-leaved evergreens. The problem is that the frigid winds whipping across the leaf will suck the moisture right out of the plant – all winter long. Enough of this activity and your plants wake up in the spring exhibiting fewer flowers but further need for a medical intervention.

So what do you do? Desiccation is the problem so an anti-desiccant is part of the solution. Wilt-Pruf (their spelling, not mine) is a product which is sprayed onto the plant before freezing temperatures and seals the leaf with a waxy, all-natural product. This seal helps to keep the moisture in the leaf and the winter winds out.

(From left to right: Merciless winds leave leafless laurels; Drying winter winds left this holly with much to be desired; Azaleas in need of a good pruning)

2. Fertilize them

If you haven’t fertilized your broad-leaved evergreens yet this year, today is the day to correct that most-egregious error. There is still time this season to help them through the winter with a fall feeding. Then again in the spring, after they’ve flowered.

3. Prune them

As most of these are spring bloomers, most of the pruning should occur after the blooms have lost their luster. Right now, however, is a good time to remove any branches that are just obnoxiously out of place or rubbing against other branches (this rubbing will open wounds that will lead to other problems). If your shrubs or trees are way out of shape, though, and getting them back in shape is more important to you than the blooms you’ll miss next spring, fall and winter are indeed the time for major structural pruning and trimming.

4. Water them

Too often we forget our plants once the threat of summer drought has passed. But droughts through the fall and winter are just as damaging as droughts in the summer. This fall, remember to water your plants well until the first hard freeze. This way, as winter sets in, the roots, stems, and foliage have ample water to help them through the winter. View our free Watering Guide for more information.

Follow these four tips and your boxwoods, azaleas, holly, and other plants will look just as good (if not better) than these beauties below!

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