There’s an old saying: “Nothing is sure except death and taxes”. Quite true. But I’d like to add a third item to that list: “If you don’t water your plants in the winter, they’re going to die.” That statement is probably not quite as sure as the first two, but it becomes increasingly more certain with each passing year.
KC Has Had Extremely Dry Winters for a Decade
The late fall and winter seasons in Kansas City, over the past decade or so, have been very dry. Whatever the reason, changing weather patterns, warmer temperatures as plants go into dormancy, or pure coincidence, plants in our area—especially evergreens, suffer in the winter.
What Is Winter Kill?
Of course, plants starving for water any time is bad, but it is doubly bad in the winter months as the ground freezes and water becomes immobile in the soil. Sunny, warm days in winter encourage plants to begin growing, and azaleas, hollies, spruce, arborvitae, and others break dormancy, using up their stored water reserves. As the plant calls for water to replenish its cells, the frozen ground refuses to release water and the plant “burns” from a lack of moisture. This is what is known as “winter kill”.
Water during Mid-Winter Thaws
That is why it’s so vitally important to thoroughly water your trees, shrubs, and perennials (particularly new planted ones) in the fall before the ground freezes. And, that is why the occasional mid-winter thaw is a perfect time to add moisture to the ground as it briefly “opens up”.
We encourage you to water your plants well this spring to help them get a good start to the spring season. Chances are they are VERY thirsty!