Seasonal care of trees & shrubs: Stem and branch protection


Stem Protection

The stems of landscape trees and shrubs may need protection from animals or mechanical equipment, especially during the winter months. Animal damage (feeding or rubbing) can be avoided by placing wire mesh or hardware cloth at least 3” from the stem. Mechanical damage (e.g. lawn mower or weed whip abrasion) can be avoided when a mulch ring (see mulch) or a plastic guard is in place. The plastic guard should only encase the portion of the lower stem that is most likely to be damaged by lawn equipment. As the tree grows the plastic guard will need to be removed and replaced in order to prevent girdling or stem constriction.

Branch and Foliage Protection

Ice and snow loading damage can be severe during cold, wet winters on multi-stemmed evergreen trees and shrubs (e.g. junipers, arborvitae, and yews). The overall form of the plant can be protected when the branches are secured with twine or burlap. Read page 3 of the below publication for more information. In order for the tree to resume normal growth remove the twine or burlap by spring.

For more information:  Protecting Trees and Shrubs from the Wicked Winters of the Upper Midwest (.pdf).

More information on each step:

Authored by Rebecca Koetter, Gary R. Johnson, and Dave Hanson: University of Minnesota
Funded in part by USDA Forest Service: Northeastern Area
Chart designed by Andrew Rose:

Download & print your own poster or magnet copy of the “Seasonal Care for Trees and Shrubs in Northern U.S. Climates”

Rebecca works on urban forestry outreach education programs with the Department of Forest Resources in St. Paul.

You may also like


  1. I have a question about white pine tree care. I planted 20 pines in my back yard in may. 18 of them are doing well, while two of them are turning brown. I gave them the all the same care. What could be going wrong with these trees?

    1. Hi Bryan. It’s not uncommon to see some browning, and some mortality after planting trees. Could there have been root damage prior to planting? If the roots were on a few seedlings were allowed to dry out either before you got them or before you got them into the ground, that could explain the browning. While I’m sure it’s disappointing, your best bet may be to give these trees plenty of TLC this fall (basically, be sure to water them frequently) and, if needed, fill in the gaps in the spring. Good luck! Hope this helps.