Deicer’s impact on your landscaping

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Last week we had our first taste of winter with a light blanket of snow covering the ground. This week, the forecast is hinting at even more snow heading toward Indiana.

Thus, it might be wise to give a few helpful hints about the differences between the various types of deicers and their impact on your plants before the rough winter weather really hits.

There are numerous types of deicers available. The five common chemicals used for deicers are: Calcium chloride, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, urea and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). Calcium chloride gives off heat as it melts which allows it to melt at lower temperatures.

Sodium chloride is rock salt. It is relatively inexpensive but can damage plants. Likewise, it can damage metal and concrete. Thus this is why you tend to see long lines at the car wash following a snow storm.

Potassium chloride is naturally occurring. It is used as a fertilizer and as a food salt substitute. It can cause foliage burn on your plants along with damaging their root system. The reason for that is because of its high salt index.

Urea is primarily used as a nitrogen based fertilizer. When compared to the previous deicers, it is less likely to cause damage to your plants unless too much is used. Instead it might cause your turf to grow a lot in the spring.

Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is a newer deicing agent. It is salt-free and made from dolomitic limestone and acetic acid. CMA causes little impact on plants making it an environmentally friendly deicer when compared to the others.

Deicers should not be used to completely melt the snow or ice. Instead you should use them to make snow removal easier. Once the snow or ice is partially melted, try to shovel or plow it away. If left there to melt completely, you stand a chance of the chemical spreading onto your plants and into the soil. This could ultimately harm your plants.

The following trees and shrubs are sensitive to having salt that is used as a deicer touching them: American Beech, American Elder, American Hornbean, Black Cherry, Crabapple, Dogwood, Eastern Redbud, Hackberry, Hawthorn, Spirea, Tuliptree and Viburnum.

In comparison, Black Walnut, Eastern Redcedar, Jack Pine, Silver Maple and White Ash are tolerant of having salt touch them.

For a complete list of plants and their sensitivity to deicers, check out the University of Nebraska publication G1121 “Winter Deicing Agents for the Homeowner” online.

Visit or contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 653-8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events.

It is always best to call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs. While many publications are free, some do have a fee.

Upcoming events

Dec. 13 – Post Harvest Outlook, Owen County Fairgrounds, 10 a.m.-noon.

Dec. 15 – Area Indiana Beef Cattle Association meeting, Owen County Fairgrounds, 6:30 p.m. Register at 812-829-5020.

Dec. 22 – Extension Office closes at noon. Extension Office will reopen on Jan. 3 at the conclusion of the Purdue holiday recess.

Jan. 9 – Jr. Leader meeting.

Jan. 15 – 4-H enrollment deadline.