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Preparing a Burning Bush Plant for Winter

eastern cottontail rabbit (sylvilagus floridanus) image by Bruce MacQueen from

The burning bush plant produces stunning red fall foliage. This slow-growing shrub loses foliage each winter. Winter preparation for the burning bush shrub involves protecting the plant from harsh temperatures and wildlife. Harsh winters also create weakness in the burning bush that make the plant susceptible to fungal diseases and pests. Proper winter preparation of burning bush may reduce some instances that weaken this beautiful ornamental shrub.

Remove all plant debris from the garden surface in late fall, including tree leaves. This cleanup eliminates hiding places for small rodents and rabbits that like to feast on the lower trunk and branches of the burning bush. Rabbits particularly favor the smooth bark of this plant.

Dig a 3-foot-deep trench around the base of the shrub. Space the trench 6 to 12 inches from the center trunk of the bush. This trench provides support for the protective fencing to discourage browsing on the shrub during the winter. The trench should be wide enough to slip the bottom edge of the fence into the ground.

Slip the bottom edge of the wire fence into the trench and secure with stakes driven into the soil. Install the fence completely around the shrub base and secure the ends tightly together using wire ties. Eliminate any gaps that an animal can push through to access the shrub.

running water hose image by Katrina Miller from

Water the burning bush thoroughly through the fall months. Use a deep-watering technique that trickles moisture slowly into the soil at the base of the shrub. Deep watering helps the roots have water access during the drying months of winter. Water regularly throughout the winter to assist the plant during drought.

Apply a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch around the shrub's main trunk extending outward to the drip line (edge of foliage canopy). Mulch insulates the roots and helps maintain an even temperature during winter. Do not mound mulch around the shrub's trunk.

Prune off any dead or dying branches to the nearest main branch. Tuck the pruning clippers close to the junction point to avoid leaving a protruding nub that invites insects and disease. Only perform pruning on injured or dead branches. Save regular shaping and thinning for spring.

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