The Times West Virginian

April 20, 2014

‘Winter burn’ hits some state plants

From losing water due to cold air and ground being frozen

By Richard Babich
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — A harsh winter has caused some plants to be burned.

West Virginia University Extension experts call this damage “winter burn.” It can be found on boxwood plants, a common but non-native plant in West Virginia.

According to WVU plant pathology specialist Mahfuz Rahman, winter burn is the result of plants losing water due to cold air temperatures and the ground being frozen. Many evergreen species were affected by the winter weather.

“With winter burn, leaves become white, then brownish,” Rahman said.

The process of helping the plants recover includes pruning away the dead twigs and leaves. This allows the plant to bud out new growth.

“In most cases, the plant will recover,” Rahman said. “This winter was too harsh. I look around and see some boxwood plants and think they cannot come back.”

Preventing winter burn involves preparing material to protect you plants, Rahman said. Covers, such as burlap or plastics, can be used to prevent the plant from losing water.

The Mon River Farm and Garden Center owner Duke Durbin said a few plants were affected by the harsh winter.

“It has affected some of the evergreens, which had frozen,” Durbin said. “Those  negative-20-degree nights with the negative-40-degree winds were not conducive (with the plants).”

Durbin said he recently gave an estimate for pruning a row boxwood plants that were affected by winter burn.

According to the WVU Extension Service, plant owners should also look out for plant diseases.

Plants can be infected by fungus, which makes infected plants appear similar to winter-burned plants.

“Diseased plants usually look similar (to winter burn) in the leaves,” Rahman said. “If you look closely, you can see (fungus). They are blackish color and can be seen on the stem.”

According to Rahman, plants with fungal diseases need infected stems removed, which removes the source of the infection. Fungicides can be used after the fungus has been removed.

Email Richard Babich at or follow him on Twitter @rbabichTWV.