What Is Tree Wrap and How Do I Use It?
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Discover how tree wrap can protect your vulnerable trees from winter's harsh conditions.
Whether you have young or thin-barked trees in your yard, their vulnerable trunks could benefit from some extra protection this winter. One of the easiest, most affordable and effective ways to safeguard your trees against winter’s harsh conditions is with a product called tree wrap.
What Is Tree Wrap?
Tree wraps are long, thin strips of material that wrap around a tree’s trunk to protect it from various environmental threats, but especially the hazards of winter. Extreme temperature fluctuations, burns from the sun reflecting off the snow, and certain animals all threaten the health and safety of your trees. Among the most vulnerable are newly planted young trees and trees with thin bark like maple, willow and crabapple.
To combat these conditions, tree wrap gives your tree’s bark an extra layer of reinforcement. It can be made from several different materials and it comes in rolls of between three and six inches wide and anywhere from 20 to 300 feet long.
Types of Tree Wrap
Tree wrap is primarily made of three materials: polypropylene fabric, paper and burlap.
Polypropylene fabric tree wrap is popular because of its low cost, stretchiness, breathability and water resistance. Its stretchiness allows it to snugly contour to the trunk without being too constrictive. Without this stretch, it could choke out and destroy layers of bark, resulting in a condition known as “girdling.“
Polypropylene also breaks down naturally over time, which further decreases the likelihood it will stay on the bark long enough to girdle it. Also, polypropylene is porous enough to prevent bark damage from moisture buildup, but not so porous to compromise its temperature-regulating properties.
Paper tree wrap usually consists of layers of uncolored, biodegradable kraft fabric with a water resistant wax layer. It typically has a more natural tan or beige color than polypropylene fabric wraps, which some people find more visually appealing.
Most paper wraps are made with crepe paper (kraft paper that’s been treated to have a wrinkly texture), which gives it more stretch and breathability. But paper wraps tend to break down quicker than other materials, requiring more frequent replacement and maintenance.
Finally, burlap tree wrap is used for certain types of trees (like evergreens) that require more air circulation and less heat regulation. Some professionals prefer it because it’s affordable, readily available and features superior breathability. You can purchase precut rolls of burlap wrap, or use burlap sacks or cut strips from sheets of burlap fabric.
There’s a lot of debate about which tree wrap material is the best. The answer depends on the type of tree you’re wrapping, and the reason you’re wrapping it.
Benefits of Using Tree Wrap
Trees are wrapped mainly to protect them from a condition called “sunscald.” It occurs when the winter sun tricks the tree into thinking it’s spring, so it prematurely comes out of its protective dormant state. That makes its already vulnerable bark even more susceptible to the damaging effects of winter’s freezing temperatures. Cracked and permanently discolored bark often results, providing an ideal nesting ground for pests and disease.
Tree wrap can also protect against certain animals that damage trees. During winter, deer will prepare for spring mating season by rubbing against trees to mark their territory and toughen their antlers. Unfortunately, deer prefer trees with thin bark, and the damage they cause can be fatal. Rabbits and rodents are also notorious troublemakers because they can girdle a tree by chewing on its bark and the underlying green cambium layer.
If you leave tree wrap on all year, it offers some protection against damage from weed whackers, mowers and other landscaping implements.
When to Use Tree Wrap
While some people choose to leave tree wrap on their trees year-round, most experts believe that trees should only be wrapped during winter. Otherwise, excessive moisture retention may cause the bark to rot, and the wrap may girdle the bark if it’s left on for too long.
It’s generally recommended to apply the tree wrap in the fall when the tree starts to enter dormancy (usually around November), and remove it in early spring when the temperatures start to rise again (usually around April). An easy way to remember this is to wrap your tree on Thanksgiving and remove it on Easter. Though most tree wraps are designed to break down naturally over time, you shouldn’t rely on nature to replace your role in manually removing the wrap at the end of every season.
To protect your young trees from mechanical and wildlife damage the rest of the year, consider replacing your tree wrap with a rigid tree guard. After all, springtime harbors its own dangers for your trees, like weed whackers and woodpeckers.
How to Use Tree Wrap
Regardless of the material your tree wrap is made from, the wrapping process will be the same. Start by wrapping the base of the tree and continue wrapping around the trunk at an upward angle until you reach the lowest set of branches. Ensure that your wrap is snug but not too tight. Overlap each layer of wrap to avoid exposing any bark.
When you get to the top, cut the wrap to length and secure the end with a strip of tape. Don’t wrap the tape around the entire circumference of the tree because that may girdle the bark. Likewise, avoid securing the wrap with twine, ties wire or any other rigid material that lacks elasticity, because that may also cause girdling. You can use duct tape or electrical tape, but masking tape may deteriorate too quickly to be effective.
Once your tree is wrapped, you can be confident that it will be safe and sound and live to see another spring.