Snow Damage to Trees



Winter weather can cause a lot of damage to trees; breaking, splitting and falling/uprooting. Multiple leader, upright evergreens, such as arborvitae and juniper, and deciduous trees with soft brittle wood such as poplar, birch and willow may be seriously damaged by ice and snow


Possible damage:


Plants near streets and sidewalks that may have been sprayed with ice melting chemicals may have dead branches or damaged root system. Many large trees and shrubs have cracked, split or broken branches.  You might not see some damage until spring when new growth starts. Large trees and shrubs falling over due to saturated soil.  The soil is becoming more saturated as the snow melts, this may rot root systems, resulting in decline or death of the plant.  You may not notice this until spring.


What to do:


Allow the snow to melt gradually.  Look around for situations that may be unsafe, like leaning trees or cracked limbs.  When large branches or the entire tree is damaged severely enough to endanger human life and property, the pruning should be done as quickly as possible, otherwise most pruning and/or repair can be delayed until spring. Before removing broken branches from a tree, first determine whether the tree can be repaired, or if it should be removed completely. If the main trunk is completely broken or if the tree is uprooted or has fallen over, it should be removed.  Most broken branches can be either repaired or pruned. When pruning trees be sure to take no more than necessary. Cut the broken branch back to the nearest branch or to the tree trunk. Remove large branches with several cuts. There is no need for pruning paint or wound dressing, the damage will heal faster if exposed to the air.  Some branches split at a crotch can be lifted into place, then bolted and cabled. This should be done immediately after the damage. If the exposed parts dry out or are left until spring, the wound probably will not heal. You can do this work yourself if you have minor repairs.  Larger hanging limbs can be dangerous for homeowners to fix, so its best to call an arborist.


Deciduous shrubs, such as barberry, hydrangeas and spirea, can be cut back to the ground if they have been crushed by the snow. Since the root system should be fine, the plant will probably come back. Depending on its age and size, however, it may take several years to recover to its original size.


  Evergreens which have been crushed may not recover as easily. You can attempt to tie up branches of boxwood, junipers, yews and other shrubs.  It may take years for the branches to correct themselves.


Esbenshade's can help


If you are unsure of what to do, Esbenshade's experts can offer their best advice.  Remember wintry weather has brought this situation, not plant varieties with inherent problems, so if you do need to replace some plants don't feel you can't use the same plant.   Looking on the bright side, this could be an opportunity to try new plants or use plants you didn't have room for before.