Why Do People Paint Their Tree Trunks White?

by AngelaJohnson

I often see trees with the bottom of their trunks painted white and decided to find out why.


~~ To make the tree more visible, and help prevent road traffic accidents at night on dimly lit streets. Utility poles are often painted white at the bottom, too.

~~ To give trees growing in a row a park-like appearance. Some people paint tree trucks white as well as fence posts, picket fences, planters, mailboxes, sheds, and other outside objects to make their yard appear clean and tidy.

~~ To keep rabbits from stripping the bark off young trees (add a small amount of rabbit repellent to the paint).

All photos taken by author.

More Reasons Tree Trunks are Painted White

Tree with trunk painted white

 ~~ To prevent sunscald / sunburn. Too much hot sun shining onto a tree trunk every day will cause damage to the bark over time. Painting the tree trunk can prevent sun damage.

~~ To protect trunks if a larger tree is removed and no longer provides shade to a smaller tree, or if a large number of tree branches are cut off and the tree trunk is no longer shaded. Only the lower trunks are painted because the upper portion of the tree is protected by the foliage.

~~ To prevent the bark of a tree from splitting and cracking off. This can happen in colder climates  when there are freezing temperatures at night followed by a daytime thawing. The painted white trunk helps reflect sunlight during the day and keeps the tree warmer at night.


Row of trees with white trunks


~~ To protect the bark of the tree from infestation by borer insects. These insects often attack trees with the weakest outer protection.  Paint the entire trunk, including dormant buds, and paint the trunk 2 inches below ground in case the soil settles.  The trunk of a potted tree should also be painted.

~~ To protect exposed limb stumps after cutting. The exposed areas can sunburn easily and also allow entry for insects and diseases.

~~ To help repel adult beetles and weevils, especially on young trees. Sun reflection off the paint should reduce insect movement across the painted zone.


white tree trunks
What to Use to Paint Tree Trunks:

Make a mixture of 50% latex indoor paint or lime, and 50% water.  You do not need to use white paint; any light-colored paint will work.  Look at the label to make sure there are no additives.

Or you can mix one-third white paint, one-third drywell joint compound, and one-third water, which makes a thicker mixture. 

Use a paint brush rather than a sprayer, and one coat is usually enough unless you live in a place with extreme temperatures.

Never use an oil based paint or exterior paint because these type of paints can harm the tree.

If you don't care for the look of white tree trunks, you can buy tree wrap or burlap.

Protect Your Trees Against Animals and the Sun

A.M. Leonard BG36 Tree Bark Protectors, 36 Inch, 5-Pack

An attractive solution to animal and lawn care equipment damage! Deer, squirrels, rabbits and woodchucks cannot bite or rub tree bark through this rigid plastic open mesh. Trunk...

Only $43.15

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Dewitt 3-Inch by 50-Foot Tree Wrap White TW3W

DeWitt Tree Wrap protects trees from scorching, and from trimmer and mower damage. Tree Wrap is made of polypropylene fabric and easily conforms to fit any tree shape or bark te...

$9.99  $2.78

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More Information about Trees

Click on a link or photo to search for more titles
Native Trees for North American Landscapes

Many common native trees are just as beautiful as cultivated exotics. Since they have evolved with local conditions and are well adapted to their climate, they often require les...

$76.07  $18.16

View on Amazon

Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening & Conservation

If you've always wanted to garden with native plants, this book is for you. With entries for nearly 700 species of native trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, grasses, and wildflowers f...

$26.63  $28.99

View on Amazon

Updated: 11/08/2015, AngelaJohnson
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cazort on 09/19/2014

I haven't seen this, but this explanation makes sense to me. When I started learning more about plants and ecology, I learned that deciduous trees in very northerly climates, like quaking aspen and paper birch, have such pale-colored bark for these same reasons--the low angle of the sun hits them in winter, and harms the tree by creating a big temperature differential.

It's less an issue in more temperate to tropical climates because the angle of the sun is higher, but I can see the park-like environment that humans create, where more light would reach the base of the trunk, causing this problem even farther south, and it makes sense that the trees wouldn't be adapted to it.

Telesto on 09/17/2014

I'd always wondered too!

sheilamarie on 09/16/2013

You've solved one of life's great mysteries for me. I've always wondered. . . .

Mira on 08/28/2013

I never thought of sunburn! Or the other ways this surface that reflects sunlight protects the trees. Interesting article!

paperfacets on 08/28/2013

I always wondered about that. For protection it is necessary, but I do not like the look. It makes the eye follow the trees down the whole row and emphasis is on the ground.

EliasZanetti on 04/11/2013

I only knew one reason; to avoid beetles and insects. Now I know more ab the subject though, nice post...

Vipul pancholi on 11/09/2012

Beautiful & complete detail information about this topis get from this I a really thankful to it

BrendaReeves on 08/26/2012

The paint on the row of trees does look nice and gives the sense of a picket fence.

katiem2 on 06/04/2012

Wow I've seen this before and wondered why people paint their tree trunks white, now I know, thanks for solving this mystery, very cool.

Pinkchic18 on 03/30/2012

I've never seen painted trees that I know of, but I'm glad I'm in the know in case I ever do!

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