Experts and BHG readers answer.
Do the deicers used on roads and sidewalks affect plants?
Salt used to melt winter ice and snow often causes plant injury. The injury may not show up until the following growing season. Salt can pull water out of plants, creating artificial droughtlike conditions around plant roots. Salt spray from roadways can directly burn the foliage of evergreens, turning it brown. Common table salt (sodium chloride), often used as road salt, also increases the sodium content of the soil. Excess sodium can damage soil structure. Chlorine from sodium chloride can cause a dried, scorched effect on leaf edges. Plants affected by road salt may have twig dieback, stunted yellowed foliage, and premature fall color. To minimize salt damage to trees, use a deicer containing calcium chloride, which is not as harmful as sodium chloride. Or use sand or kitty litter instead of a deicer. Avoid piling snow treated with salt around trees or other plant beds.