It's getting cold so we'd better finish tucking in those plants that still need to be tucked in for the winter. The last group to be tucked in is the broadleafed evergreens. Rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and pieras are some of the plants that continue to transpire moisture right through the winter. If you've ever seen a rhododendron on a really cold day, you see the leaves curl up. They are trying to save moisture. If they aren't protected, sometimes those cold winter winds will come through and dry them out so that the leaves are dead come spring.
So it is the cold winter winds, more so than the actual temperatures, that really causes the damage. You need to protect them with a wind screen. And the simplest material to use is burlap. Instead of just wrapping burlap on them, I build a chicken wire cage around the plants and then wrap the burlap around the cage. Because the cage will be more sturdy and it will hold up better when we get all of that snow and ice. The other key is to not let the burlap contact the leaves. It will wick moisture away from the leaves and dry them out more.
Don't just throw burlap over them to make a wind screen. Make a little box.
I use a staple gun to attach the wire and burlap to the stakes. Pull the wire really tight, and you can just staple it to the stakes all the way around.
Another option is to spray an anti-desiccant. Do so when the temperatures are above 40 degrees on a calm day. If you have snow, of course, knock it off first. This spray creates a waxy layer over the leaves and protects them from the cold winds.
And it's all tucked in for the winter! And it will also help keep the deer away from rhododendrons.
By Charlie Nardozzi