Wind can damage bark, flowers, foliage, fruit, and limbs of most any tree or shrub. High winds can severely damage or kill trees, such as when major limbs fail (break) or the trunk topples to the ground.
Plants growing at windy sites often have smaller-than-normal leaves and are stunted overall. Typically leaves damaged by wind remain attached to the tree, but they tear or shred and develop marginal necrosis and other discoloring. However, wind can cause leaves to abscise (drop) prematurely, while nearby trees of the same age and species that are protected (e.g., by buildings) have full canopies.
Wind injury to foliage can resemble damage from
For plants in sheltered locations and where windiness is uncommon, look for site conditions and symptoms specific to these other maladies to help diagnose the cause of plant damage.
Wind injury to fruit skins, such as abrading with twigs, can be confused with damage from other abiotic (environmental) causes, scab fungi, or feeding by thrips or certain other insects. Damage to blossoms can resemble that caused by blight fungi, old age (overmature blossoms), and rough handling.
Wind breakage of limbs can cause plants to develop a highly "sculptured" structure. Monterey cypress along the coast are often distinctively shaped by persistent winds; they develop one-sided foliage and limb growth pointing away from the ocean.
Wind commonly causes water deficit. If soil moisture is low, or water absorption and transport do not match transpirational water loss, water stress occurs. Especially during low humidity and cold or hot weather, high winds cause bark and foliage to desiccate (dry out).
Wind-damaged leaves become necrotic along the margins and tips and drop prematurely. High wind can break flowers, foliage, and limbs and tear and shred leaves, sometimes called tatters. Windborne sand in desert locations and near beaches can abrade tissue, causing bark and leaf surfaces to appear sandblasted.
Provide plants with proper cultural care, especially appropriate irrigation, to reduce the adverse effects of wind. If needed during their first year of growth, stake plants properly to allow young trunks to flex and develop strength.
Insect pests and disease can render a tree susceptible to wind damage, weakening scaffolds or rotting the structural wood. Proper pruning and training of young trees, and controlling wood-damaging diseases and insects, will help prevent wind damage.
Create a windbreak to help shelter plants. Planting several trees clumped together may lessen their damage at windy sites.
Plant susceptible species in more sheltered locations, and choose species carefully for windy sites. Plants that grow fast, become tall, and have broad, thin leaves are usually less tolerant of wind. Smaller plants and those with narrow leaves with a thicker cuticle better tolerate wind. For lists of wind-sensitive and -tolerant plants, consult publications such as Abiotic Disorders of Landscape Plants.
Necrotic, wind-tattered leaves
Premature leaf drop
Abrasion scars due to wind