Why Do You Whitewash Trees?

In this article, we will discuss why you need to whitewash trees. You might have seen trees with their trunks and branches whitewashed and wondered why it is done. Trees are adaptable and strong, but they also need protection. Young trees, especially, need time to grow strong and sturdy so that they can survive. Whitewashing trees has been done for a long time and they offer many benefits to the trees. Read the rest of the article below for more information on why trees are whitewashed.

Why do you whitewash trees? Trees are whitewashed to protect them against too much sun exposure, insects, and to provide protection during the winter season. Whitewash is usually applied around the entire trunk and sometimes, on branches. Moreover, gardeners whitewash trees not only for protecting their barks but also to increase fruit production.

What are the benefits of whitewashing trees? How do you prepare trees before whitewashing? What is the purpose of whitewashing trees? How do you whitewash tree trunks? These are some of the questions that we will discuss in this article. Whitewashing can be done in different kinds of trees. They are affordable and provide the necessary protection that the tree needs in order to survive harsh weather conditions.

Why do you whitewash trees
Photo by Vesna D. from Pexels

What is the Purpose of Whitewashing Trees?

The main purpose of whitewashing trees is to protect them from sun-scald. The trunk and the branches of the trees are covered with whitewash to prevent the rays of the sun to heat the bark. If the bark of the tree is exposed to too much sun, it causes it to come out of dormancy but the roots as well as the other unexposed areas of the tree remain dormant. Dormant roots cannot provide the required water to the bark which can cause death to the warmed tissues.

Moreover, whitewash is also done to prevent the trees from splitting. This can happen when the bark is exposed to too much sun in the daytime and cools quickly during the night. Any split on the tree can cause an opening for the pests and insects to invade the tree. This can be prevented by whitewashing the trees.

Benefits of Whitewashing Trees

There are many benefits to whitewashing trees which include preventing sun-scald, prevents heat stress, and prevents pests and pathogens. While trees are sturdy and string, they are exposed to harsh outdoor environments that can affect how they grow. Let us learn more about the benefits of whitewashing trees below.

Whitewashing Prevents Sun-Scald

One of the benefits of whitewashing trees is that it prevents sun-scald. Cold nights and hot days can lead trees to have sun-scald. When the sun strikes the trunk of the tree, the cells become more active than their roots. Because of this, the tree will need water that cannot be provided by the roots. As a result, the cells of the trunk plant start to wither from lack of water. If this happens, the trunks appear to have a sunburned, cracked, and dry surface. When you apply whitewash to the trunk, it provides the tree with a protective sun barrier to prevent cracking as the tree is exposed to different temperatures.

Whitewashing Avoids Pests and Pathogens

Another benefit that you can get from whitewashing is that it helps avoid pests and pathogens. Take note that if the tree is suffering from sun-scald, the cracks can also allow pests and pathogens to affect the inside of the tree. Moreover, fungi and bacteria can enter the tree through the cracks and affect how it grows. Whitewash prevents any access to the interior of the tree.

Whitewashing Avoids Heat Stress

Heat stress is a common issue for trees, especially during the summer season. Whitewashing the trunks and branches helps the trees to stay cool. This is because whitewash reflects both heat and sunlight away from the tree. As a result, the foliage of the tree can concentrate on fruit development. Furthermore, trees that are whitewashed have less stress which can lead to faster growth and healthy fruit production.

What Is Used to Whitewash Trees?

Latex paint and salt and lime mixture are two of the common ingredients used in whitewashing trees. They are affordable and easy to make. Learn more about both ingredients below.

Latex Paint

Latex paint is a common ingredient that is used in making whitewash for trees. Pure white paint works efficiently when it comes to reflecting the rays of the sun away from the trees. To create the whitewash, pour equal parts of latex paint and water in a large container. For trees that have a rough surface, use a thinner mix of whitewash to cover the bark. You can also use water-based paint if latex is not available.

Salt and Lime

Other ingredients that are commonly used when whitewashing trees are salt and lime. Hydrated lime or masonry lime should be used. To create the whitewash, pour 3 gallons of water in a container and add 3 lbs salt. Mix thoroughly until the salt is dissolved. Then, add 10 lbs of hydrated lime into the mixture. Mix well so that the ingredients are evenly distributed. Add more water if you want a thinner consistency or whitewash. You can also check out this article titled, does whitewash wash off? We have shared an in-depth discussion about the topic.

How to Prepare Trees before Whitewashing?

To prepare trees before whitewashing, you need to clean the trunk, disinfect it, and make sure that all trunk woods are covered. Preparing the trees for whitewashing is an important step that you need to do. Read more below for more information.

Step 1 – Clean

The first thing that you need to do is to clean the trunk. Trees are usually covered with moss or lichen. You can remove these with the use of a scraper or brush. Moreover, you need to cut damaged and rotten bark from the trees with a knife.

Step 2 – Disinfect

The next step is to disinfect the trunk. This step is vital for old trees. Take note that cleaning and removing dead bark from the tree will leave healthy barks exposed. You can use a copper sulfate or potassium permanganate to disinfect the tree. If those two are unavailable, you can also use a soap solution or diluted ash.

Step 3 – Cover the Wounds

Once you have disinfected the trunk, you need to cover the exposed wounds. Use a tree-pruning paste to seal the wounds. You can find many recipes to create a tree-pruning paste. Make sure to use high-quality paste because the wrong one could easily freeze in the cold or melt in the sun.

How to Whitewash Tree Trunks

To whitewash tree trunks, there are a few steps that you need to do which include preparing the tree and applying whitewash. Whitewashing tree is easy and also affordable depending on the ingredients that you use as well as the number of trees that you need to whitewash.

Prepare the Tree

The first step is to prepare the tree. Clean the tree by removing loose soil and pieces of bark around the tree trunk. Make sure that you disinfect the tree and cover the exposed wounds before you start whitewashing. Refer to the steps above on how to prepare the tree for whitewashing.

Apply the Whitewash

Next, create a whitewash by mixing half water and white latex paint. The exact measurements that you need will have to depend on the number of trees that you need to whitewash. Apply the whitewash into the tree trunk starting at the base of the tree and up to where the branches grow. Make sure to regularly stir the whitewash mixture frequently. Once you are finished applying the whitewash, let it dry before you add another coat. Continue to coat the tree until the bark is thoroughly covered.

✅ Video – Paint Your Fruit Tree

Dave Wilson Nursery shared the video below on YouTube. It discusses how to paint your fruit tree. In the video, the importance of painting fruit trees is discussed. Moreover, the proper way to whitewash trees is also shown. Watch the video below for the demonstration.

How to Make Homemade Whitewash for Trees?

To make homemade whitewash for trees, you can use latex paint and water. Mix a half and half ratio of water and latex paint in a container. Adjust the consistency of the whitewash by adding more water to the mixture. You can also use a traditional recipe that includes hydrated lime and salt.

What Kind of Paint Do You Use on Tree Trunks?

It is recommended that you only use white latex paint to create the whitewash for trees. Make sure to use interior-grade latex paint. Avoid using exterior latex because it can cause damage to the trees. Moreover, do not use oil-based paint because they are made from ingredients that are toxic to the tree trunks. We have also shared this article that discusses if you can make your own whitewash. Check out the article for more tips and information.

How Much Should You Paint in a Tree?

The amount of area that should be covered will have to depend on the size of the tree. For instance, trees that are newly planted should be completely painted. For mature trees, remove the soil away from the trunk to reveal a depth of two inches. Then, paint the whole surface until you reach the height of two to four feet. Once the paint has completely dried, put the soil back in place. Moreover, the upper surfaces of the branches that are regularly exposed to sunlight should also be painted.

Alternatives to Whitewash

If you do not want to use whitewash to protect and cover trees, you can use other alternatives like wrapping the trunks with plastic, cloth tape, or paper. You can also use white corrugated drain pipes to protect young tree trunks. Simply split the pipe lengthwise and place it around the trunk. Can you use any color of whitewash for your furniture? Check out this article titled, can you whitewash with any color? We have shared tips and information that you can refer to. 


You have reached the end of this article that discusses why you need to whitewash trees. Whitewashing trees is an easy and affordable solution to protect trees from the harsh environment, temperature, pests, and fungi. Fruit-bearing trees will greatly benefit from whitewashing as it helps increase fruit production. We have also shared tips on how to prepare and whitewash trees. We hope that this article has helped you learn more about whitewashing trees and their benefits. Thank you for reading!

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