University of Maryland Extension

Winter burn/Leaf Scorch - Annuals, Bulbs, Groundcovers, Perennials, and Vines

winter burn
Leaves of pachysandra damaged from winter burn

Leaf scorch caused by cold winter temperatures is referred to as winter burn. Winter burn is caused by sunlight warming the leaves of plants growing in a sunny exposure during periods when the ground is frozen and the roots cannot absorb enough water to prevent tissue desiccation. Winter burn or freeze damage can also occur on tender spring growth when temperatures dip below freezing.

winter burn on pachysandra
Pachysandra groundcover damaged from winter burn


To reduce the chance of winter burn water well and make sure the soil has adequate moisture during the fall before winter conditions arrive. Prune, thin or mow damaged plantings in the spring to encourage new growth. Maintain adequate soil moisture levels to reduce leaf scorch during the growing season. Also be aware that sudden changes in sunlight exposure may burn existing foliage. Prune, thin or mow damaged plantings in to encourage new growth.


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