Arborvitea Brown and Sparse - to Wrap in Burlap or not

Asked November 23, 2018, 1:48 PM EST


For the past 8 years or so, I have been wrapping a line of 15 arborvitae trees with burlap, This year going into winter they look very stressed, the braches are sparse, but there is green on the edges.They are along a sidewalk that gets plowed in the winter, and the plow throws the snow right on the trees. It seems as if wrapping them allows the salt and sand from the snow to permeate into the trees because the sparse branches seem to be the only area damaged. The trees look great above the burlap, and stressed below it, I wonder if wrapping the trees is detrimental, or if that is just coincidence. I am at a loss of what to do to protect the trees this winter. Please help! Sorry the photo loaded upside down

Hennepin County Minnesota

1 Response


There are a number of things that can cause browning of evergreens, and certainly salt is among them (herbicide drift, insect damage, poor soil conditions, inadequate or improper fertilizing, and winter burn caused by drought/not enough water, being some other major reasons). Depending on how wet the plowed thrown snow is, and how porous the burlap is, it seems entirely possible that salt is getting on to the trees/soil. You will want to continue to project the trees from salt spray, as arborvitae are susceptible to damage from salt, but you may need to install a more robust barrier than just wrapping the trees in burlap - a temporary fence, or a structure able to hold up enough layers of burlap that the thrown snow can't get through. Salt spray can also build up in the soil injuring roots and cause foliage injury that way.

What I did notice, however, in your picture, is how close your trees are to each other - this very tight spacing prevents the lower parts of the trees from getting adequate sun, and over time, growth on the lower portion of the tree becomes sparse and wispy.

With just a picture and not being there in person, we can only give our best idea of what is wrong. To get a better idea of what the problems are and possible solutions, we recommend gardeners consult with certified arborists. If you decide to do that and need some tips on choosing one, the U of M extension has the following information: