MISSOURI — Freezing rain and snow make roads across Missouri extremely slippery, but ice melters such as road salt help to keep motorists safe during the winter.

However, while ice melters play an important role in keeping roadways clear, they can do lasting damage to the surrounding plants and trees.

KMZU’s Dan Watson was able to talk with Jennifer Schutter, a Field Specialist in Horticulture with the University of Missouri Extension, about just how damage ice melters can cause to plants and some ways to use road salt to keep roads and sidewalks clear while leaving local greenery unharmed.

Click below to hear their conversation, which aired Tuesday on KMZU.


The plants that take the most damage from road salts are the needled and broad-leafed evergreens since they line Missouri highways.

” The salt injury is noticeable usually in April and its usually noticeable on the side facing a roadway or a sidewalk and the needles dehydrate,” Schutter said, “the salt that gets on the needles, it causes them to dehydrate, it pulls moisture out of the needles and then causes them to turn brown.”

According to Schutter, there are ways that residents can use road salt on streets and sidewalks without harming their yards or wild plants.

“You kind of erect a barrier, like a burlap barrier around your plants and that may help with the salt spray that may get on them.”

In addition to using barriers, the formula of the salt itself plays a role in salt injury to plants and now there are new formulas available that are less harmful and more environmentally friendly.

“Well there are some newer formulations of salt being sold by garden centers and stores,” Schutter stated, “and the newer formulation is environmentally safe and it has magnesium chloride in it rather than sodium chloride.”

Should a plant appear to have the symptoms of salt injury, Schutter advises that patience is the best course of action as the plant will produce new growth to replace the damaged growth.