I have two kinds of conifers in the front yard. They are in a spot with eastern exposure, but the sunlight is somewhat blocked by a big house on the south side of the yard. They get a lot of shade in the afternoon and evening, and the yellow is mostly on the part facing the house. However, last year, when planted they were green all over. I live in Chicago (we had a very long winter this year).

Why are they turning yellow and what can I do to make them healthy and green again?

Here are the pictures:

Click on photo for full size
Conifer 1, taller "pine" tree Conifer 2, bushes

1 Answer 1


That is winter burn. It is caused by the dehydration of the foliage during abnormally long or cold winters. Evergreens let off water vapor throughout the winter through their leaves, but the roots cannot replenish the supply, while frozen. The yellow areas are dead, and you should follow each dead stem back to a live green shoot or bud, and trim it off neatly. Winter burn was a bad problem with the harsh 13-14 winter. It can be prevented somewhat by any wind-proof cover, which protects from the drying wind.

  • Thanks. Now, the article says " The brown or yellowed foliage generally is on the side of the plant facing the sun and/or the side exposed to the wind, where the rate of evaporation from the needles or leaves is greatest. " but the yellow is facing the house. Is that common?
    – fiacobelli
    Commented May 17, 2014 at 22:34
  • 1
    Cold air flows down hill and pools against fences, it also accumulates in areas that have still air. So, the side exposed to the wind may not necessarily be the coldest. Commented May 17, 2014 at 22:41
  • 1
    You can also get burn from reflected or radiated heat acting on the foliage. Heat loss from your house or sunshine reflected from your house can warm up foliage a little bit, just enough to dry out the foliage. If you have had a winter with wildly varying temperatures, that too, can cause stress or foliage burn
    – kevinskio
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 13:59
  • @kevinsky yes, warming up the foliage of a plant with frozen roots.
    – J. Musser
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 23:33

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