How Spring Weather in Winter Affects Your Trees

Today I was doing some upgrades on a treehouse we built a while back, and I looked out at the post-oaks surrounding the one we built in and noticed something VERY DISTURBING …. The trees had all began to produce new buds because of the warm weather we’ve been having!

Now, if you don’t know what that means, think of a tree’s bud like a baby leaf, branch, or flower. Each bud is produced by the branch or twig that it calls it’s home, and that bud then turns into either a new branch, a new leaf, or a new flower. Every new piece of growth, except for the original seed, at one point or another, began as a bud.

Here’s why it’s interesting to me …. We still have 46 days, 15 hours, 46 minutes and 8 seconds (from the time I typed this at least …)  until spring! It’s too early for trees to be starting to bloom! Which leads to a problem …. What if it freezes and kills all of those new buds!?

Think of that precious bank account. Imagine you went to buy a new car to get to work, and paying cash. The day you drive it off of the lot, your friend texts you. You glance down at the incoming distraction, and WHAM …. Right into the back of a semi you run.

Now, you didn’t get you insurance switched over, because you JUST bought it … AND the car was totaled. You spent all that money, and now you’ve lost it all.

This is kind of what happens when a tree produces new buds during winter. With that few days left this winter, there’s a very good chance that we will get another hard freeze, and that can mean trouble for a newly budding tree.

The new cells in a tree that is just budding are very young and sensitive to the elements, especially since they will be very “water-rich.” Basically that means that the cells of this new bud are filled with water since, well … cells are largely made of water.

When your pipes are filled with water and it freezes, what happens? They rupture right? that’s why you put those weird foam thingies on the water faucets outside … Home Depot and Lowes must make a killing on those things!

 So when a tree cell, that is filled with water freezes, what do you think happens? Same thing!

Of course, the entire bud is made up of those cells, and when they all die, no problem …. The tree will just produce more … so what’s the VERY DISTURBING thing we’ve been talking about?

Well, just like that bank account, all of the resources will be gone!

I think of the tree’s water, nutrients, etc. as a resource. When the tree runs out of these resources, we call it “the death of a tree.” When a tree produces those buds, it uses those valuable resources that it has.

When it uses those resources unnecessarily, the tree gets stressed. When it runs out of resources, the tree dies.

So one of two things is going to happen with this fluctuating weather and the reaction of the trees. Either it’s going to impact your trees horribly negatively, or it’s only going to negatively impact your trees a little. Either way, it’s not ideal!

Here’s what you can do … real simple … replenish the trees resources.

Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are the main ingredients that a tree uses for new growth. Feeding your trees on a regular through fertilization is a great way to keep the tree strong EVEN THOUGH it’s been through some rough stuff this winter.

If you need help with your trees this winter, please feel free to reach out to me Here

My Best, Always,


Matt Latham
The Tree Care Ninja
ISA Arborist #TX-3737A