If you’re not a plant or lawn and garden enthusiast, some plant care tricks might confuse you. Arguably some of the most confusing moments come when you see healthy-looking trees painted white from the branches down. But like most things, there is a reason.
Trees are painted white to prevent heat and weather damage during the winter.
Okay, now you’re probably more confused because how can paint prevent damage? It’s actually all about the sun and temperature.
In the winter, the weather can fluctuate fairly wildly with a moderate cold during the day and freezing temperatures at night. The large fluctuations can cause the bark to split damaging trees in a process called sunscald. Since white paint doesn’t absorb as much heat from the sun during those more temperate afternoons, it can help keep the temperature more consistent.
Think of it this way. In the summer, you were likely warned about wearing black, right? That’s because black and other dark hues absorb the sun’s rays more readily and heat up faster. When you paint the trunk of a tree white, it slows down that warming process, keeping the bark at a temperature similar to that of winter evenings.
Typically, this trick is used on more delicate, newly planted trees as well as fruit trees in orchards. But you actually don’t have to use paint. If you’ve got a new tree you might want to protect this winter, you can also order a wrapping material if you’d prefer not to wait for the paint to wear off your tree and don’t like the look.
Whether you’re going apple picking this fall and notice white trees or already have plans to protect your own, you now know that yes, there is a reason people paint trees white.