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Wedel's Nursery, Florist and Garden Center

Wind Chill and Your Plants

Questions often arise about the effect of wind chill on plants. When it is appropriate, forecasters warn us about the dangerous combination of low temperatures and wind saying that the combination of the 2 can cause severe damage in a relatively short length of time. We’ve heard those warnings recently and not for the last time this year, I’m sure. If you’ve needed to be outside recently, if for no longer than to walk to the mailbox, into the grocery store or from your car to your job, you have a sense of how cold it can feel no matter the reading on the thermometer. It isn’t pleasant and can be quite painful. But, what is it like for our gardens and landscape during those frigid hours? Plants need moisture to survive any time of the year and strong winds cause dessication or drying of plant tissue. That is especially true for evergreens since they don’t drop their leaves and for younger or smaller sized wood or twigs on young plants or the new growth of older plants. The damage done by winter winds is called winter kill and is often recognizable by its effect on only 1 side of a plant, the side toward which the winter winds blow. We recommend a late watering for your landscape plants, even after Thanksgiving, to help ensure they get through the winter as well hydrated as possible. Plants acclimated to our area will withstand cold temperatures but there are some “ifs.” If very cold temperatures arrive before plants have had time to enter dormancy then they can or will suffer damage. If cold temperatures arrive after plants have begun to awaken from dormancy and if those temperatures are low enough and remain long enough, plants will suffer damage. What might not seem to make a lot of sense is wind chill has no effect on plants. While wind or chill can damage plants, the combination of the two is not more damaging than either alone. There is no difference to a plant if the temperature is 25 below zero or 55 below zero except for the difference in the drying effect of the wind at a higher wind speed. The primary goals when protecting your plants for winter is to make sure they are well watered and protected as much as possible from the drying effects of winter winds. A late watering, rose cones, burlap and wind breaks, among other steps, will go a long way toward keeping your landscape safe during the harsh winter months.
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