Why Are Tree Trunks Painted White? – Reasons and Benefits

Whitewashed trees

Some trees are painted white in order to protect them from the external environment, either from the sun or from animals.

I guess you also noticed in the street or in some parks some trees painted in white. When I first saw this, I was intrigued and wondered what the reasons for this operation could be. Aesthetics? Disease? Protection? Loving to discover new techniques applied to trees, I discovered while doing extensive research that painting the trees white actually had several purposes, all in the sense of protecting them.

In this article, I’ve compiled for you the reasons for painting a tree trunk white as well as a breakdown of the different types of paint you can use to do it.

Let’s get started.

3 reasons to paint tree trunks white

Close up of white wash on trees trunk bark

As an enthusiastic gardener, I really wanted to understand why tree trunks were painted white. Here are the reasons:

Protection against sunburn and sunscald

The sun, essential to the development of our plants can sometimes paradoxically be problematic for them.

When our trees are exposed to strong and prolonged sunlight, like us humans, they can get “sunburned“. This mainly concerns trees with thin trunk bark or young shrubs. The bark can die, necrosis, and then parasites like fungi proliferate, rotting the wood. Using a white coating on the bark reflects the sunlight, so the temperature of the treated trees is lower than that of a normal tree and the bark is protected from possible heat stroke.

Also in winter, when trees are subjected to cold weather and the sun’s rays heat up the bark during the day and the night causing frost, the trees can crack or be damaged by these large temperature variations. The phenomenon is called “sunscald“. Painting a tree trunk white will help reflect more sunlight and prevent the trees from heating up too quickly on the surface, limiting the variations.

Protection against pests and diseases

Pests and/or diseases can occur when the bark of a tree is damaged. Coating the bark with a preventive layer blocks the potential entry points of parasites and diseases to limit the risk of penetration of undesirables into the heart of the trunk. Thus, by using white paint we limit the development of certain diseases.

This does not eliminate them entirely of course, but already allows the trees to be less exposed.

Protection against rodents and other wild animals

Coating a tree trunk acts like applying some kind of repellent to it. Some animals will take a dim view of trees treated this way and will be less likely to damage the bark by gnawing/scraping.

By the same logic as above, if the tree is less damaged by external elements such as animals and rodents, then it is less exposed to potential diseases or pests that cannot enter through entry points created by cracks/scratches.

In summary, painting the trunks of trees white protects them by reflecting sunlight, slows down the invasion of pests or the penetration of disease, and deters some animals from damaging the bark, all while being a quick and easy method to implement. An idea as simple as “painting white” can be very effective for many years.

Types of white paint used for tree trunk painting

Tree trunk being painted white

When it comes to painting tree trunks white, there are several paints that can be used. The most commonly used paint is water-based latex paint, but there are other options as well.

Latex paint

THE most popular type of paint for this protection technique, white latex paint is for me the easiest to use and find.

It is a water-based paint that is very easy to apply and has the great advantage of drying quickly. Be careful to dilute the paint 4 to 5 times before using it, it is essential for it to penetrate well into the grooves of the bark and cover it perfectly.

I’m not teaching you anything, but make sure you read the manufacturer’s advice before painting with it, that way you’ll get the best results.

One of the advantages of latex paint is that it is readily available in most paint stores. For those who are wondering, oil-based paint should be avoided at all costs. It is toxic to trees and will do them more harm than good.

Limewash paint

Painting a tree with lime wash is another solution to protect it. We are talking about a mixture of lime, water, and natural pigments. This alternative is great because it is ecological and respectful of the environment. All the ingredients to obtain this paint are natural and sustainable.

This is an option that works very well, as lime paint can last for many years on the trunks. However, the difficulty is in the application, as the paint is very thin and requires many coats before optimal protection.

Price-wise, lime paint is more expensive than latex paint, so take this into account when considering your budget.

Calcium carbonate

The 3rd option is calcium carbonate. This type of whitewash is made from crushed limestone and is therefore a natural, environmentally friendly option. It is also effective, as calcium carbonate is known to last for many years.

On top of that, it’s easy to apply, as calcium carbonate is used with a brush or a sprayer that allows the paint to get into the smallest corners.

It’s also a cheap alternative that will please the environmentally conscious with a small wallet.

However, a little warning, calcium carbonate can be hard to find. It is not as readily available as latex paint or lime paint.

Gardener coating a tree with white paint


Applying white paint on the trunk of trees protects them from sunlight, parasites, insects and small animals. Thanks to this paint, trees are less prone to sunburn and damage, reducing the risk of disease and ensuring a solid health.

This is a technique that I advise you to apply at home in your garden on your fruit trees, equip yourself with some latex paint, lime paint or calcium carbonate paint. If you have any doubts about the application, ask your seller for advice.

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