Pine trees are some of the most majestic and recognizable trees in the world. These fragrant, cone-bearing conifers come from the Pinus genus and are favored for their easy maintenance and unique needles. Although pine trees remain green throughout the year, they are not immune to all cold-weather risks. In order to protect your pine tree seedlings from winter injury, proper precautions must be taken.
Choose a safe planting location that is at least 60 feet away from roads and driveways. During winter, deicing salts meant for roads can seep into the ground or land on pine tree seedlings, and cause browning, leaf scorch, branch die back and root damage.
Choose a salt-tolerant species of pine tree if you are unable to plant 60 feet away from roads and driveways. Salt-tolerant pine trees include the Norway pine, (Pinus resinosa), also known as the red pine, and white pine (Pinus strobes), which grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 to 5 and 3 to 8, respectively.
Plant tender pine tree seedlings in protected areas away from direct sunlight and sheltered by more resistant plants. This will prevent pine tree seedling needles from drying out during warmer winter days, which can cause desiccation injury when the needles are activated by the sun, but frozen roots cannot supply the water needed. Especially tender pine trees include the white pine and Norway pine.
Add 4 to 5 inches of mulch in the immediate area around your pine seedling to moderate the soil temperature and conserve moisture. Straw, leaves and wood chips work well. The tender root tissues of young pines cannot acclimate to temperatures below freezing and can be killed if soil temperature reaches below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, mulch can prevent soil temperatures from falling too low.
Brush snow off of pine seedlings with your fingers using upward motions. If snow piles too high on young seedlings, it can weigh the plant down and cause damage.
Wrap young pine trees lightly in hardware cloth fastened with safety pins to prevent damage by animals. Mice and rabbits often damage young trees in the winter since they feed on the bark.
Remove grass and weeds from a 1- to 2-foot radius around the pine tree seedling to deter mice and rabbits. Animal damage is often more severe when trees are surrounded by dense grass or weed cover.