Wrap Your Tree For Winter Protection

Tree Wrapping and Understanding Winter Tree Damage


When a tree is young, it’s outer layers are composed of thin, active tissue.  Until the bark matures and the tissue becomes rigid, you must wrap your tree for protection.  During the winter, the intensity of the sun at our elevation can lead to unseasonably warm weather. This can damage the vascular system of your tree thus, limiting its ability to transport water and other essential elements.  

There are two ways the winter weather can affect your tree. First, frost cracks happen when extreme temperature fluctuations stimulate the sap flow to become active in the trunk and freezing temperatures at night freeze the water in the sap. This causes the cell walls of the vascular system to explode. The wrap will better regulate the surface temperature of the trunk. The second way is sunscald. Sunscald takes place at the base of the tree closest to the ground.  That is why wrapping from the first branch all the way to the ground is key.  When snow is on the ground around the tree, sunlight reflects off of its white surface thus speeding the rate at which the tissue de-acclimates to freezing conditions. This subsequent freezing kills the active cells.  

Trees will usually be able to seal off the dead tissue before bacteria or fungus can invade the open wound but it is something to be cognizant of heading into the growing season.  If your trunk sustains any damage, don’t cover it up with anything.  Keep it dry as best you can. If there is any lawn irrigation hitting the trunk consistently it fosters the perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to take hold.  

A rule of thumb in the trade is to wrap your tree from Thanksgiving until Easter.  But in Colorado there are instances of extreme temperature swings before and after those holidays; my advice is to pay attention to the forecast.  This year, it froze right on Easter so we would have waited until the third week of April to remove the wrap.  In October if you see a low below 20 degrees, wrap it up!




Yo. Wrap your tree

Don’t be a dummy

Frost cracks 

Will cost you mad stacks

And the scald of the sun

Ain’t no fun

For your tree

You See

Cause we livin’ at elevation

Where the sun’s bakin’

So, don’t be a bum

Wrap that cambium