Painting Your Trees: Why and How

You may have seen tree trunks painted in various colors before, and while it doesn’t seem very intuitive, painting trees is common amongst orchard farmers and other professional growers of trees. You may have wondered why they do this. The short answer: to protect them. 

For the trees on your property, it’s likely that it’s unnecessary to paint them. In fact, the practice of painting trees is a bit controversial in the arborist world, with many experts telling people to hold off on the paint and try other methods of protecting and caring for them when diseased or damaged. However, there are several reasons why people paint their trees you should consider.


Professional fruit growers can’t afford to allow their trees to be attacked by rodents, birds or insects constantly. Painting a tree’s trunk will help repel pests by making it nearly impossible to burrow into the bark. This will also help prevent your tree’s bark from splitting, which is common when a tree warms quickly after a cold night. 

Paint your tree trunk in the early spring before the insects become more active. You’ll need white, latex paint. Mix the paint with water in a one-to-one ratio. White paint reflects more heat and reduces heat damage. Latex paint contains polymers that fill and hold cracks and splits. Using a thick, loosely napped, wide paintbrush, paint up to the first line of branches. Rodents won’t be able to climb beyond this point, so there’s no need to paint higher. 

When painting your tree, start from the bottom and move to the top. This will allow extra paint to drip down the trunk as you go. 

Dressing Wounds

Paint can also be used to help trees heal from damage to their bark. After pruning your tree, you can paint over the cut to prevent insects from burrowing into the vulnerable area, allowing the tree to heal faster. This is called wound dressing. There are a variety of wound dressing paints to be used on trees for this very purpose. This specialty paint is free of petroleum-based solvents that can damage the tree. 

When applying this paint, make sure you remove any debris, loose bark, and dirt on the area you’re painting to make sure the paint adheres to and covers the wound, as opposed to the debris covering it. Paint at least two inches beyond the wound to ensure that boring insects won’t sneak in around the sides. Wound dressing also prevents fungal infections that can start in exposed tree wounds. Oak-wilt, for example, spreads by spores. A covered wound will prevent the spores from taking hold. 

Final Word

Painting your trees to protect them is not always needed, and many people have sworn off the practice altogether. There are alternative methods to painting trees, including using beeswax as a wound dressing, that may have the same effect. If you’re unsure about whether to paint your trees to protect them, contact your local paint expert.

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