Winter Mulching for Your Trees and Garden

You can prevent freezing temperatures from killing your plants and trees this winter. Mulch can help you keep your tree and plant roots from freezing and help them explode in spring growth.

Winter mulching from tree trunk to drip line for root protection gathered information about what winter mulching is, why it is necessary, and how you do it.

What is Winter Mulching?

Mulching is a long-standing gardening and landscaping practice used to regulate soil moisture and temperature.

• In spring and summer, mulch is applied to the ground to retain moisture, control weeds, and prevent erosion.
• In fall and winter, mulch is used primarily to regulate soil temperature.

Winter mulching prevents winter root injury by slowing down the daytime thawing and night-time freezing process in late fall and early winter. As mulch traps soil moisture and warmth, tree and plant roots can continue their growth farther into the winter months.

In regions with sustained below-freezing temperatures, the soil will freeze eventually. In early spring, mulch is of little help to stop desiccation (drying) of evergreen foliage. However, mulch allows your evergreens to go into winter better hydrated, dramatically reducing the damage from drying out when spring arrives.

In the Garden – Winter mulch should be used to protect your perennials from winter weather. This is suggested to safeguard perennial plantings and flower beds from alternating freezing and thawing cycles through winter, not from freezing.

The goal is to maintain your plants in a state of dormancy, rather than maintain them warm. Plants may break bud if kept too warm, and any subsequent growth will die during winter.

Winter Mulching Your Trees

When we mulch, we are replicating an eons-old process occurring naturally beneath trees in forests and wooded areas. Falling leaves and dying plants form a blanket over the forest floor protecting the soil from temperature variations and the trees from desiccation.

Use these tips when mulching your trees:

Apply Organic Mulch – Compost (well-decomposed), disease-free leaves, tree bark, pine needles, and plant by-products can all be used as organic mulch.

Winter mulching with organic well decomposed material

Do Not Volcano Mulch – When mulch is piled against and around the base of a tree resembling a “volcano,” you risk insect infestation, disease, the decline of the tree, and its eventual death.

Volcano mulching over root flare

Learn more about the adverse effects of volcano mulching by reading

Mulch to The Drip Line – Begin laying mulch around the base of your tree (three to four inches from the root flare) and continue outward to the drip line (the outer extremity of the crown).

What you should end up with is a three to four-inch layer of organic mulch shaped like a donut around the tree.

Refresh Old Mulch – Over time, mulch can settle or become matted and compacted. Use a rake to break up the existing mulch and mix in fresh organic mulch to return it to its proper thickness.

Read more about mulching trees at

Winter Mulching Your Garden

Like mulching your trees, winter mulching your garden protects your plants from winter root injury and plant death. It does this by slowing down the thawing and freezing process in late fall and early spring.

Winter mulching plants to protect their root systems from freeze

Follow these tips when mulching your garden:

Use Organic Mulch – Compost (well-decomposed), disease-free leaves, and plant by-products can all be used as an organic mulch in the garden.

Prevent Evergreen Desiccation – Evergreen Desiccation occurs in late winter and early spring when temperatures begin to rise, but the plant roots are not yet extracting moisture from the soil.

You can significantly reduce or eliminate this occurrence by mulching your evergreens earlier in fall and increasing watering intervals to twice per week with one deep watering per week until winter.

Avoid Volcano Mulching – Once you lay your mulch in the garden bed, be sure to pull it back from plant stems and shoots. As with the base of tree trunks, plant stems (especially woody plants) must remain un-covered and dry to prevent disease, infestation, and death.

Winter mulching to protect trees and plants from root damage during freezing weather

Remove the Mulch – In spring, when your plants resume their growth, remove the mulch from your garden bed. For woody plants and shrubs, the mulch can be left to provide weed control through spring and summer.

To learn more techniques for protecting your plants and trees in the winter, read

Mulching Trees and Gardens

In this article, you discovered what winter mulching is, why your plants and trees need it, and how to do it without harming them.

By mulching your trees and plants for the winter, you are providing a layer of protection from the erratic freeze and thaw patterns associated with late fall and early spring.

By neglecting to winter mulch, you risk severe winter root injury, the decline, and possible death of your trees and garden.


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How to Get Rid of Poison Ivy on a Tree

Those suspicious-looking vines growing up your tree can kill the tree and give you a painful rash if you touch them. For the safety and well-being of you and your loved ones, poison ivy should be removed from your trees.

Poison Ivy climbing vines can kill a tree gathered information about poison ivy, how to identify it, how to remove it from trees, how the rash is spread, and how to treat the rash.

Poison Ivy on Trees

You may think of poison ivy as a creeping vine along the ground or growing over small bushes and structures. While this is true, there is another side to poison ivy that you may have never noticed.

Whether in the countryside or the city, poison ivy can latch onto trees and upright structures. If allowed to grow long enough, poison ivy can weave its way throughout the entire canopy of a tree. It can take on the appearance of a tree with “limbs” sprouting out from its host by as much as 6 to 8 feet.

Poison Ivy growing on a row of pine trees

With the ability to grow as ground cover, shrubs or climbing vines, poison ivy is found throughout North America (except in the desert, Alaska, and Hawaii) growing in open fields, wooded areas, on trees, and along roadsides or riverbanks.

Learn more about how climbing vines can kill trees by reading

How to Identify Poison Ivy on Trees

Positively identifying poison ivy can be a little tricky. The following traits can help you avoid contact with this “irritating” species:

Poison Ivy leaves in spring with urushiol oil

• Poison ivy grows with a large leaf at the end of a stem and a slightly smaller leaf shooting off on either side (leaves of three).
• The leaves have pointed tips and can have notched or smooth edges.
• Foliage is reddish in the spring, green in summer, and yellow or orange in the fall.
• Clusters of green and white berries and green or yellow flowers are common through spring and summer.
• As a climbing vine, poison ivy roots attach to a tree, fence post, or light pole using rootlets (see image below), and is the more reliable indicator of this species.

Poison Ivy roots clinging to tree trunk with rootlets

The adage “leaves of three, let them be” is real. While there are other plant species with this trait, it is best to avoid these plants, unless you are sure the plant is not poison ivy and poses no threat.

How to Safely Remove Poison Ivy from Your Tree

There are two principal ways to remove poison ivy from your trees:

Herbicidal Treatment – Use glyphosate or herbicide with the compound Triclopyr. Always follow the directions on the label precisely.

You can use pruning shears or a hatchet to nick the trunk in several locations (deep enough to expose the xylem and phloem), then apply the herbicide to the open wounds. By spring the plant will have taken up the chemical and should not leaf out.

Or you can sever the vine close to the ground and immediately apply or daub the open wound with the herbicide using a paintbrush for directed spot-treatment or equipment as suggested by the product label.

Physical Removal – If your plan includes removing freshly cut or long-dead poison ivy, the following will help you avoid contact with the rash-causing urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol) oil.

• Apply a barrier cream to any exposed skin before handling poison ivy (over-the-counter creams are recommended)
• Protect your hands with washable or thick disposable gloves
• Wear long sleeves and long pants
• Wear tube socks (knee-high if possible) and boots
• Do not touch or scratch any exposed skin after contact with poison ivy
• Do not burn poison ivy cuttings. Smoke may carry the oil, allowing you to breathe in the irritant.

use protective gloves to handle poison Ivy leaves stems and roots

When removing poison ivy, it is essential to remember that the urushiol oil is present in the foliage, the stems, and in the roots. Use extreme caution when pulling up the roots of poison ivy.

For roots that have attached or clung onto the trunk of your tree, take extra care to prevent the removal of the tree bark. In cases of mature poison ivy growth, it may not be possible to remove the attached roots without severely damaging the host tree.

In the winter (when the plant is dormant), or when the plant has been dead for several months, the danger associated with urushiol oil continues. This oil may persist for years on dead foliage or plant parts.

After removing poison ivy from your tree, the following will help you avoid contact with urushiol oil:

• Carefully remove the gloves and wash them in hot, soapy water (detergents work well) or dispose of them
• Wash your hands thoroughly
• Carefully remove your clothing, placing it directly in a washing machine (wash with hot water and laundry detergent)
• Use caution when removing your clothing to avoid transferring the urushiol oil to yourself, furniture, carpeting, walls, or appliances
• Thoroughly wash your shoes and shoelaces with hot soapy water
• Take a shower, thoroughly washing your face, neck, arms, hands, and other body parts that may have been exposed to the plant
• Using disposable gloves, wash all equipment used to remove the plant with hot soapy water

If you suspect or are exposed to urushiol oil, you have between 15 and 30 minutes before the oil penetrates and bonds with the deeper layers of your skin.

What to Do After Exposure to Poison Ivy and Urushiol Oil

The development of a poison ivy rash occurs as an allergic reaction to urushiol oil. This oil naturally occurs in the leaves, stems, and roots of poison ivy.

Avoid Spreading the Oil – The rash may be spread by touching the plant, contaminated clothing, surfaces, or body part, then touching another body part.

Pets may carry the oil on their fur after playing in areas where the plant is growing and spread that oil to anyone who subsequently makes contact with the contaminated fur.

If you suspect that your pet has contacted poison ivy, put on some plastic gloves, protective clothing, and give it a thorough bathing.

Wash It Off – If you know you have come in contact with poison ivy, use hot, soapy water to thoroughly cleanse your skin.

Thoroughly wash hands after any skin exposure to poison Ivy

When a rash develops, it will be sensitive and should still be washed with hot, soapy water. This will minimize the potency of the oil and avoid spreading it to other body parts.

Don’t Scratch – A rash caused by urushiol oil is typically sensitive, itchy, and can persist for weeks. Avoid scratching affected areas to prevent bacteria from your fingernails, causing an infection.

Treatment – In mild cases of poison ivy rash, cool baths, soothing lotions, or over-the-counter medicated lotions can be used to minimize the symptoms while the skin heals.

More severe rashes (with blistering or oozing pus) or rashes on the face and genitals should be examined and treated by your primary care physician. In these cases, prescription medication, including antibiotics, may be necessary to treat the symptoms.

Prevention – To prevent a poison ivy rash, follow these tips:

• Learn how to identify poison ivy in all seasons
• Avoid touching or grabbing unfamiliar foliage
• Avoid any skin contact with poison ivy
• Remove poison ivy from your landscape
• When hiking, try to stay on cleared pathways
• When camping, pitch tents in areas free of poison ivy
• Keep pets from playing in wooded areas to keep urushiol oil from sticking to their fur

Avoid poison Ivy when camping and pitching a tent

NOTE: Urushiol oil can remain potent for several years. If you put away a contaminated piece of clothing without washing it and take it out one year later, the oil on the clothing may still cause a rash.

My Trees and Poison Ivy Vines

The vines on your tree may pose a health risk to you and your loved ones while it robs your tree of essential sunlight and nutrients.

In this article, you discovered how to identify poison ivy, safely remove it from your trees, avoid spreading the rash, and treatment for a rash once you have it.

Allowing poison ivy to grow on your trees and in your landscape can kill your trees and result in violent rashes caused by the urushiol oil that’s produced by the plant.


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Evergreen Tree Disease – Needle Cast Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Is your evergreen tree turning a worrisome color? If the answer is yes, you need to take action before it’s too late to save them.

Evergreen tree with discolored foliage from needle cast infection

As the name implies, these trees should be “always green.” When they start yellowing, browning, or blackening, something deadly is likely happening on the inside. Proper treatment depends on interpreting visible symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis.

The team at gathered information on needle cast, its symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and answers some frequently asked questions.

Evergreen Tree Disease – Needle Cast

Needle cast diseases are tricky to diagnose and treat because the symptoms only become apparent 12 to 18 months after becoming infected.

Evergreen tree with chlorosis from needle cast infection

Needle Cast Symptoms

Since needle cast diseases are caused by various fungi, there may be slight variations in symptoms. However, they have many of the following symptoms in common:

• Needles turn entirely yellow or brown.
• Girdled needles will appear to be tri-colored; green from the base to a reddish brown spot in the middle, and yellow from the spot to the tip.
• Infected and dying needles will be riddled with dark, light, or yellow rounded or spider-like fruiting structures depending on the invading fungi.
• Diseased needles are shed in mass, making the tree look sparse and thin.
• In many cases, only the current season’s needle growth will be left on the tree.
• A tree’s lower branches are typically more severely affected and usually the first to present dieback.
• In more advanced cases, branch dieback may occur anywhere on the tree.

As other non-infectious evergreen diseases may mimic needle cast symptoms, it is essential to make a positive identification. Two of the above symptoms are an absolute giveaway of a needle cast infection; girdled needles and fruiting structures on infected needles.

Diseased evergreen tree infected with needle cast

During winter months, your evergreens may suffer from drought and sun scalding. The appearance of this condition is very similar to that of needle cast, read more on Winter Protection for Evergreens, Trees, and Plants at

Needle Cast Diagnosis

Once you have determined that needle cast is present, it is essential to identify which disease is affecting the tree by sending a sample to a plant clinic. The methods of control will vary according to the fungal species causing the infection.

You can accomplish this by:

• Hiring an arborist to remove samples and have them tested.
• Contacting your state’s Department of Agriculture and sending a sample of the infected tree to one of their field offices or testing centers.
• Contacting your state’s university to locate one of their plant and pest diagnostic clinics or extensions.

Universities and Departments of Agriculture will likely have a sample submission form to fill out along with specific instructions on how to handle and ship samples to them.

Needle Cast Treatment

If the disease is not too severe, control of needle cast can be accomplished through treatment and preventative measures:

• Remove and destroy all infected needles.
• Trees that have already died should be removed by a professional tree service and properly disposed of.
• Preventative chemical controls should be applied when needles are half elongated and again once they reach full length.
• As this disease can remain asymptomatic for 12 to 18 months, chemical controls should be applied for a minimum of two years.
• To reduce the risk of reinfecting more mature trees, chemical controls may be required indefinitely.
• Select resistant evergreen species when planting.
• Make sure trees are adequately spaced to allow good air circulation.
• Eliminate all methods of overhead watering (splashing water spreads spores).
• Sterilize all equipment (including protective clothing) used to prune, dig, or handle infected trees before using them on healthy uninfected specimens.
• Follow all control and prevention instructions given by the plant clinic.

Advanced cases of needle cast are challenging to treat and will usually result in the death of the tree.

Dead evergreen tree from needle cast disease

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can a brown evergreen come back?
Answer: Yes. If the browning is due to an adversely cold and dry winter, your broad-leafed or needled evergreen can make a comeback as temperatures warm up in the spring and they get sufficient water.

However, if the browning is due to disease, you will have a much more difficult time getting your evergreen to rebound.

Evergreen tree infected and dying from needle cast disease

Question: Which fungi cause needle cast?
Answer: Several fungi cause needle cast in evergreen trees. Some of the more common fungi are:

• Lophodermium
• Cyclaneusma
• Ploioderma
• Rhizosphaeria
• Phaeocryptopus
• Rhabdocline

Proper identification of the fungi species will help determine the course of treatment for the infected specimen.

My Evergreen is Turning Brown and Dying

When it comes to evergreen trees, “green is good” and “brown is bad!” These trees are built to be green, and when they start to turn yellow and brown, chances are good that you are dealing with needle cast.

In this article, you discovered the symptoms, how to diagnose, and how to treat a needle cast infection.

Your delay in identifying and treating needle cast can result in the death of the infected tree and propagate the disease to any surrounding evergreens.


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Tree Bark Canker Disease Identification, Treatment, and Prevention

Your trees could be sick and dying in plain sight with no apparent symptoms. Discover what to look for and how to fix it before one of them falls on your house.

Tree trunk with severe canker disease infection

By the time diseases that cause cankers on trees become visible, it is often too late to save the limb, branch, or tree. Keeping your trees healthy and having them inspected annually are two of your greatest defenses against tree disease and death. defines cankers, looks at the pathogens that cause them, the signs of an infected tree, how to treat them, and how to prevent cankers from becoming a severe threat to your trees.

What Are Tree Cankers?

Tree cankers are symptoms of a fungal or bacterial pathogen having infected damaged bark (from an impact injury) or an open wound (from unhealed pruning).

The fungi and bacteria that cause cankers are common, widespread, and harmful to an extensive range of tree and shrub species. Some of the more familiar pathogens that cause cankers are:

Cytospora (a genus of Ascomycete fungi) – Frequently found on pines, spruce, willows, and poplars.

Nectria (a genus of Ascomycete fungi) – Commonly found on oaks and maples.

Phytophthora lateralis – Infects cedars and yews.

Phytophthora cinnamomi – Over 1,000 species of conifers and hardwoods worldwide can host this pathogen.

Phytophthora cambivora – Affects conifers and hardwoods throughout Europe and North America.

Canker diseases can easily kill branches or cause enough structural damage for branches to break free in severe weather. At its worst, cankers on the trunk of a tree can be in the process of girdling and subsequently killing the entire tree.

Tree canker disease causing a deformed trunk

Signs and Symptoms of Tree Cankers

As a fungal or bacterial pathogen invades bark and sapwood, it blocks or kills the phloem (water and nutrient-conducting tissues). As the phloem succumbs to this invasion, wilting and dieback begin to occur.

Cankers form on branches, stems, and trunks as a result of the interaction between the pathogen and its host. As the pathogen grows and expands within the wood, the host tries to contain its growth through compartmentalization (this is the same process a tree uses to heal wounds from pruning activities). For this reason, it can take years for a healthy tree to begin showing the following symptoms:

• Wilting
• Dieback
• Stunted growth of new foliage
• Chlorosis (yellowing or discoloration of foliage)
• Early leaf drop (deciduous trees)
• Excessive loss of foliage (evergreen trees)
• Darkened lesions on the bark
• Split bark sometimes oozing sap or moisture

Tree canker disease causing sap to flow from the cambium layer

Cankers may vary in size and shape depending on the vigor of the tree and the aggressiveness of the pathogen. While most cankers appear as dark, sunken oval-shaped lesions, they may grow into what seem to be split open knots on the bark.

Now that you know the signs of cankers, read for tree stress warning signs to be aware of that are not associated with cankers.

Tree Canker Treatment

There are no universally registered chemicals for the treatment of cankers. However, once a canker is detected on a stem or branch, the following measures should be taken to prevent the pathogen from spreading to other areas or other trees:

• Sterilize all pruning/cutting tools between cuts with 70% rubbing alcohol or a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 10 parts water.
• Work only when the bark is dry to prevent the pathogen from easily spreading.
• For stems and twigs, prune them back to several inches behind the canker.
• Branches with cankers close to the trunk should be pruned back to the branch collar without leaving stubs.
• Never cut into a canker. By doing so, you may be allowing the pathogen to spread.
• When a canker is located on the trunk of a tree, do not attempt to remove it. In these cases, seek the advice of an arborist.

Tree canker disease on branch with severe decay

If you find yourself removing multiple cankers from a single tree or cankers from numerous trees, it would be wise to have your trees and landscape inspected by a professional.

Canker Disease Prevention

The prevention of canker pathogens, disease, and infestations all depend on a series of factors including:

• Appropriate seasonal pruning read more on pruning techniques and safety at
• Grow those trees and plants suitable for the USDA hardiness zone you are located in
• Select disease resistant species
• Use proper planting and mulching methods
• Provide ample amounts of water during dry seasons
• Maintain a nutrient-rich and pH adjusted soil appropriate for optimal growth
• Protect trees during winter and severe weather to avoid bark wounds

Another essential element in keeping trees healthy is the scheduling of annual inspections by tree professionals. They can often detect potential health risks in their early stages and help you to avoid catastrophic damages.

Tree inspection looking for canker disease and other pathogens

In cases where you think the damage has gone beyond repair, read and know when you may need remove the tree altogether.

Tree Cankers and the Diseases that Cause Them

Tree diseases often go unnoticed until they have done more damage than can be mitigated. Knowing what to look for and how to take action is one of your greatest assets in keeping your trees healthy and thriving for generations.

In this article, you discovered what tree cankers are, how they are caused, the signs of an infection, how to treat cankers, and how to prevent them from causing irreparable damage to your trees and property.

Your failing to take action when your trees are infected by invasive pathogens will result in the compromised health and ultimate death of the tree and may lead to that tree falling on your home, car, or causing catastrophic, even life-threatening damages.


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Indoor Evergreen Tree Care

Don’t let your indoor tree die. It needs attention to continue adding life, color, and texture to its environment. And with some easy care tips, your evergreen tree will thrive.

Indoor trees can adequately fill a space, improve the air quality, and be a conversation piece all at once. All you have to do is care for it, and in return, it will give you years of natural beauty.

indoor evergreen tree care recommends the best trees to bring into your home and presents professional care tips for indoor evergreen trees.

Best Indoor Evergreen Tree Species

While there are innumerous species of trees that could be suitable for indoor growth, we have selected the following 5 evergreen trees for their adaptability to an indoor setting:

Money Tree – The Money Tree (Pachira Aquatica) has many myths surrounding its origin. Most notably that it brings good fortune to its owner.

Money tree indoor evergreen care

Ficus Tree – The ever popular and evergreen Ficus (Ficus benjamina) is native to Asia and Australia and is the official tree of Bangkok. In a natural setting, these trees can reach heights of nearly 100ft.

Ficus tree indoor evergreen care

Joshua Tree – Also known as the Yucca tree (Yucca brevifolia), this species is native to the southwestern United States, and in its natural setting, a Joshua tree rarely grows over 50ft tall.

Joshua tree indoor evergreen care

Dracaena Tree – From the Asparagaceae family, these are among the best trees for air quality, and are incredibly tolerant to sparse watering. The Dracaena genus is comprised of over 100 species, including the “Lucky Bamboo.”

Dracena tree indoor evergreen care

Rubber Tree – Native to Southeast Asia, the rubber tree (Ficus elastica) with its broad shiny leaves can reach over 130ft in height with a trunk measuring 6 ½ft wide.

Rubber tree indoor evergreen care

If you’re looking for the perfect outdoor evergreen trees like the magnolia or eucalyptus, visit

Caring for Indoor Trees

Bringing an evergreen tree indoors is one way to change the dynamics of a room completely. With that, you will need to care for it while it grows and adapts to a controlled climate. The following will help you give your tree what it needs to thrive:

Planting the Tree – Trees can adapt themselves to their surroundings. That includes the container it grows in. The larger the container, the more root development it will achieve, and subsequently, the larger the tree will grow.

Potted indoor evergreen tree care

For all of the trees mentioned above, the soil used for your tree should be nutrient-rich, with a pH level of 6.0 to 6.5. Fertilizers are not necessary for the first year. Each year after, in late winter or early spring, your tree will benefit from a nitrogen-rich fertilizer and a fresh layer of soil.

An annual soil test will guide you in determining what adjustments the soil requires to maintain the ideal pH level and nutrient content.

Annually, or as the tree grows, increase the size of the container until the tree reaches the desired size. The container should have drainage holes to avoid overwatering.

When planting, re-potting, or adding soil to your tree, never cover the root flare. The root flare is the lower point of the trunk where the roots begin. If planted too low in the soil, rot can set in and kill your tree.

Watering Your Tree – As a tree grows, the more water it will consume. As long as the soil is well-drained, keep it moist by watering once per week with room-temperature water.

Insect Infestation – Regularly inspect your tree for signs of an insect infestation. If kept healthy, your tree has its own defense mechanisms and can ward off most attacks. However, there are times that you must intervene.

Neem oil is one of the best options for indoor tree pest control. It is a natural way to stop an infestation and avoid using harsh chemical insecticides within your home.

Caring for the Foliage – While an occasional misting may seem like a good thing, indoor tree foliage should be lightly dusted with a damp cloth on a regular basis.

Pruning Your Tree – You can prune an indoor tree in the same way you would prune a tree growing outside. Some of the reasons for pruning are:

• Shaping the tree
• Removing dead or dying branches
• Removing diseased or infested foliage
• Encouraging spring growth

Pruning indoor evergreen tree care

Indoor Tree Light Requirements – All of the trees named above will thrive in a well-lit location, preferably near a window or glass door with some bright light during the day.

Location – Your tree will acclimate to its surroundings fairly quickly. It is not recommended to move them frequently, as this will stress the tree.

Bring the Outside In

For your indoor tree to thrive, you’ll need to give it some regular attention and some basic care. An indoor tree can be an amazing highlight or conversation piece for you to brag about.

In this article, you discovered 5 species of trees that adapt perfectly to an indoor environment, as well as their soil, water, light, and pruning necessities.

When growing a tree indoors, you will benefit from its continued growth, improved air quality, and beauty by caring for it in the easiest of ways. Conversely, your inaction or neglect will quickly lead to the tree’s death.


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5 Evergreen Shrubs for Shade – Zone 8

No landscape, deck, pool, backyard, or outdoor living area in zone 8 is complete until your shrubs provide refreshing year-round shade from the sun.

Zone 8 backyard landscape with shrubs for shade

For those living in USDA plant hardiness zone 8, summers can be hot and stifling, and winters cold but short-lived. Planting evergreen shrubs strategically on your landscape will provide ample shade, cooler temperatures, and privacy.

The team at carefully selected the following five evergreen shrub species ideal for plant hardiness zone 8, and compiled their growth and care information for you to utilize.

Rhododendron Facts and Information

Rhododendrons are very popular medium-sized shrubs that flower abundantly in Springtime. They are slow-growing and must be planted in acidic, organic, and well-drained moist soils. For their establishment and best growth environment, they prefer partial shade.

Zone 8 evergreen shrub rhododendron for shade

Rhododendron Information:

Hardiness Zone – 4 through 8
Height and Width – 4 feet to 10 feet tall and wide
Shape – Rounded and spreads as it matures
Growth Rate – About 1 foot per year in optimum conditions
Time to Maturity – 3 years in optimum conditions
When to Plant – Early fall or spring
Ideal Soil pH – 4.5 to 6
Pest Problems – Scale and aphids are common problems for rhododendrons. Both can be easily treated with neem oil.
Special Care – Mulch rhododendrons each spring with 2 to 5 inches of organic mulch to protect shallow roots and keep the soil damp.

Emerald Arborvitae Facts and Information

Emerald Arborvitae is a popular tall-and-narrow shrub that is commonly seen potted on porches flanking a door. They are the preferred shrub for privacy screens and tight spaces between properties. This species grows well in both alkaline and acidic soil, is very drought tolerant, and prefers full sun.

Zone 8 shrubs for shade evergreen emerald arborvitae

Emerald Arborvitae Information:

Hardiness Zone – 3 through 8
Height and Width – 15 to18 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide
Shape – Tall and narrow
Growth Rate – 6 to 9 inches per year
Time to Maturity – 15 to 20 years
When to Plant – Late fall or early spring
Ideal Soil pH – 6.8 to 7.2
Pest Problems – Bagworms and spider mites are troublesome for this species, treat them as follows:

Bagworms should be treated with either spinosad, permethrin, sevin or malathion in late spring (May).

Spider mites are resistant to commercial insecticides, and they are best treated with a horticultural or neem oil.

Special Care – Make sure this species receives several deep waterings in late fall early winter. Wind, sun, lack of water, and freezing temperatures combined can cause browning of the foliage.

American Holly Facts and Information

American holly is a very popular broad-leafed evergreen which produces clusters of red berries that last through fall and winter. While quick to fill out, American holly is considered a slow grower, preferring moist, acidic well-drained soil, and full sun for optimum growth.

Evergreen shrubs for shade American holly zone 8

American Holly Information:

Hardiness Zone – 5 through 9
Height and Width – 40 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet wide at maturity
Shape – Dense pyramidal
Growth Rate – 12 to 24 inches per year
Time to Maturity – Slow grower – up to 10 years
When to Plant – Early spring
Ideal Soil pH – 5.0 to 6.5
Pest Problems – Leaf miner and scale are problems for American holly, treat the shrub with neem oil during the dormant season to control these pests, and prune back areas that become heavily infested.
Special Care – Hollies are dioecious shrubs, they need both male and female plants to produce seeds (berries). Only the female holly bushes will produce the red berries. Therefore, one male American holly should be planted for every three females.

This will ensure the iconic looking brilliant green holly with red berries is on display well into the winter season. An added benefit to the production of these berries is that they will attract a variety of birds and other wildlife to your landscape, increasing its biodiversity.

Hicks Yew Facts and Information

Hicks Yew is a very popular tall and slender shrub that’s easily pruned to form shapes. This species is slow-growing and performs well when planted in acidic, organic, and well-drained moist soils. Yews do best in full sun and can tolerate heat, drought, root pruning, and shearing. However, this shrub does not do well in poorly drained soil, which can lead to root rot, health decline, and death of the shrub.

Hicks yew zone 8 evergreen shrub for shade

Hicks Yew Information:

Hardiness Zone – 4 through 8
Height and Width – 10 to 12 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet wide
Shape – Tall and slender – May be pruned to form shapes
Growth Rate – 8 to 15 inches per year
Time to Maturity – Slow grower – up to 10 years
When to Plant – Fall or spring
Ideal Soil pH – 4.0 to 5.5
Pest Problems – Scale is a common pest problem for Hicks Yew. Repeated applications of neem oil should resolve this issue. If heavily infested, prune back all troubled areas and treat the remaining foliage with neem oil.
Special Care – Provide regular deep waterings throughout the first growing season to grow a strong and extensive root system. Once established, water weekly, increasing the frequency during severe summers.

Note: Hicks yew can be pruned in the summer months to form geometrical or other shapes. While yew shrubs are resilient, over pruning may weaken or kill this species.

Prague Viburnum Facts and Information

Prague Viburnum is a very popular flowering ornamental or hedge shrub. This species is fast-growing and performs well when planted in well-drained moist soil. In late spring, pink buds open up to reveal ivory flowers which eventually yield red berries. These berries eventually turn glossy black and persist through the beginning of winter.

Prague viburnum evergreen in zone 8 for shade

Prague Viburnum Information:

Hardiness Zone – 5 through 8
Height and Width – 8 to 10 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide
Shape – Upright oval to oval-rounded
Growth Rate – 24 or more inches per year
Time to Maturity – 4 to 6 years
When to Plant – Fall or early spring
Ideal Soil pH – 5.5 to 6.5
Pest Problems – Scale is a common pest problem for Prague Viburnum. Repeated applications of neem oil should resolve this issue. If heavily infested or infestation persists, prune back all affected areas.
Special Care – When this species shows signs of trouble, losing its form, shows signs of dieback, or is damaged, it can be pruned to the ground and allowed to regrow.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 8 and Evergreen Shrubs for Shade

USDA plant hardiness zone 8 is an excellent area to grow evergreen shrubs. The weather and environment in this zone promote fast and tall growth, eventually providing an abundance of shade and privacy for your landscape or outdoor living space.

The emerald arborvitae, American holly, hicks yew, rhododendron and Prague viburnum are five of the many suitable evergreen shrubs for zone 8. These specific species, give you a unique opportunity to fill the spaces in your yard, while getting the most out of their shape and size.

Zone 8 landscape with hicks yew shrubs for shade

By planting these five evergreen shrubs, you gain the benefit of shade and privacy where you need it in your yard, year-round.


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Volcano Mulching – Doing This Can Kill Your Tree

Volcano mulching resembles a little volcano around the base of a tree trunk made from mulch. It may look cool, but it’s a death sentence for the tree.

Mulching is an essential part of tree care. However, volcano mulching is a practice which is a tree killer and is highly discouraged.

Tree volcano mulching in landscape

Read on as the team at defines the importance of mulching, what it means for the health of a tree, the dangers of volcano mulching, and answers some commonly asked questions.

Mulch Volcanoes Are Tree Killers

A mulch volcano occurs when a thick layer of mulch is laid around a tree and piled up against the base of the trunk, covering the bark and root flare, resembling a volcano.

For one reason or another, this way of mulching seems to be fairly common, even prevalent in some regions. Landscapers, lawn services, home/business owners that are doing this may be under the assumption that mulch cannot harm trees. Sadly, they are mistaken.

This practice causes the bark at the base of the tree to be permanently shaded and in constant contact with moisture. The ramifications of volcano mulching for a tree are devastating and may result in the following:

  • Cankers
  • Splitting
  • Disease
  • Decay
  • Insect infestation
  • Root rot
  • The death of the tree
  • The unexpected falling of the tree

The tree in the image below may seem to be properly mulched but it is in fact volcano mulched. The level of mulch around the trunk is above the root flare and in contact with the bark.

volcano mulched tree above root flare

Tree Bark – The dead tree cells that cover and defend a tree’s trunk, branches, and limbs compose what we know as bark. For bark to optimally serve its purpose (keeping insects and disease from making the tree a host) it needs air and light to remain hardened.

Over Mulching – Too much mulch can end up matted over time. Just as detrimental as volcano mulching, matted mulch acts as a barrier and stops water and air from reaching the roots. You can quickly solve this by fluffing it up with a rake and removing any excess, 2 to 4 inches thick is ideal.

For more info on growing healthier trees, read these 3 mulching tips.

Root Flare – Definition and Vulnerability

The root flare or root crown is the point at the base of a tree trunk where the trunk expands and transitions into the root system. Trees that sprout and grow naturally have the flare at ground level.

Maintaining this level is essential to the tree’s health for two particular reasons:

1 – From the root flare down, bark transitions to the outer layers of the roots, specialized in resisting constant exposure to soil moisture.

2 – Above the flare, is bark. Exposing this bark to constant moisture inhibits the transportation of oxygen and nutrients by the phloem, effectively girdling the tree.

When planting saplings, transplanting older trees, or mulching around any tree, the root flare must be kept at ground level, free from obstruction or coverage.

Pictured below, a sapling has been over mulched, covering the root flare.

Landscaping volcano mulching over sapling root flare

Importance of Mulching

A 2 to 4-inch thick layer of organic mulch spread out on the root zone without making contact with the trunk (like a donut with the tree trunk in the center) is essential to your tree’s health for the following reasons:

Water Retention – Mulch helps retain water absorbed by the soil keeping the roots moist and preventing the hardening of the ground, especially during times of drought.

Soil Insulation – During times of extreme temperature fluctuations, mulch helps to regulate soil temperature, protecting the root system from both hot and cold temperatures.

Weed Prevention – Mulch prevents weeds from establishing themselves in the root zone of a tree.

People Also Ask

Q: Can Mulch Kill a Tree?
A: Yes. When improperly applied, mulch can lead to a series of vulnerabilities, the decline of the tree’s health, and eventual death.

Q: What is the Purpose of Mulch Around Trees?
A: Mulch insulates the root zone from extreme temperatures and helps retain moisture for optimal root growth conditions.

Q: Why Should I Keep Mulch Away from Tree Trunks?
A: Continued exposure to moisture weakens the bark, leaving it vulnerable to insect infestation and disease.

Q: How Deep Should the Mulch Be?
A: Spread organic mulch in the root zone in a 2 to 4-inch layer. Thicker than this is considered over mulching and may result in matting.

Q: Can You Put Fertilizer on Top of Mulch?
A: Yes. Applying a granular fertilizer over mulch is fine. It will slowly make its way to the soil and roots.

Q: What is the Best Mulch to Use?
A: Organic. Mulch is meant to decompose slowly and as it does, nutrients are infused into the soil. Mulches containing cypress and cedar are highly sought after, as are those which include pine needles or straw. Be aware that each type of mulch has both advantages and disadvantages.

Q: Is Compost Good for Mulch?
A: Not exactly. Compost comes packed with nutrients that you want to get to the roots; it is better when mixed with the soil.

Watch the following video to see how to correct a volcano mulched tree.

Proper Mulching for Healthy Trees

By avoiding volcano mulching, you are promoting the health of that tree and the safety of everything around it. Likewise, the proper mulching of a tree’s root zone helps the tree avoid the stressors of extreme temperatures and drought.

Volcano mulching invites a series of potential health problems for a tree, including severe implications around the area of the root flare. Knowing the importance and method of proper mulching is a fundamental part of keeping trees healthy.

Allowing trees to continue improperly mulched can quickly lead to disease or infestation, subsequently leading to health problems, their death, and potential falling.


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