Trees and shrubs that remain green — conifers and broad-leaf evergreens, such as rhododendrons — slow their growth but never go fully dormant. It's especially important that they have a ready supply of water whenever the ground isn't frozen.
Drying winter winds are especially damaging to evergreens. In exposed, windy areas, having a windbreak helps prevent damage, as can wrapping shrubs with burlap or easy-to-use shrub wraps, or using anti-desiccant spray.
If branches are bending under the weight of a heavy snowfall, gently remove some of the snow. However, don't try to remove ice after ice storm; you're likely to cause more harm than good.
Some evergreens, notably white branches, are susceptible to damage by road salt sprayed onto branches from passing snowplows. In spring, you'll see brown needles on the road-facing side of the tree. Protect hedges and shrubs with burlap or shrub wraps. On taller trees, there is little you can do; consider replanting with more salt-tolerant species.
Extreme cold isn't the only challenge faced by woody plants, in fact,deer can browse on hedges and shrubs. An adult deer is capable of eating roughly six pounds of plant materiel a day. You can protect you plants by wrapping them with burlap or netting. You can also use repellents, although these normally have to be reapplied throughout the season as they can wash and wear off in snow and rain as these are normally organic based repellents.
Plants hardy to your region should endure normal winter temperatures just fine. However, winter can wreak havoc in other ways.
  • Early cold spells can damage plant tissues that haven't had a chance to harden off for the winter.
  • Dry winds and winter sun can dry out or "burn" conifer needles and broad-leaf evergreen foliage, which continue to transpire (give off water vapor) during winter.
  • Frozen soil means plants can't take up water to replace the moisture lost from evaporation and transpiration.
  • Midwinter thaws can "fool" plants into breaking dormancy too early, and the tender new growth may be killed by the next cold snap.
  • Alternating freeze/thaw cycles can heave new plants out of the ground, leaving roots exposed to drying wind and sun.
  • Bright winter sun heats up dark tree bark, which can freeze and crack when temperatures drop quickly at sunset.
  • Deer, mice, rabbits and other animals gnaw bark and browse leaves and twigs when other food becomes scarce during long, cold winters.
Although wet, heavy snow can damage branches, snow cover is usually good for plants. A layer of snow provides moisture and helps insulate the soil and roots from fluctuating temperatures.
John Welch Enterprise