The Risk of Snow on Trees

Preparing and Protecting Plants in Winter


Snow-covered trees may look like a winter wonderland, but it can also look like a disaster for some trees and shrubs. Those aware of the different risks of snow on trees can prepare plants to help them survive the winter.

Winter Damage on Plants

There are several ways winter can wreak havoc on trees and shrubs:

  • Rapid change in temperatures. More and more it feels like seasons go from one extreme to another. A quick drop in temperature adds stress to plants and leave them prone to injury. Extended periods of mild winter weather also de-acclimate plants, making them more vulnerable.
  • Frost. A heavy frost typically marks the end of a plant’s growing season. However, frost can also cause cracks along a trunk. These cracks can be shallow or deep, but once a frost crack appears, it’s more likely to reappear every year.
  • Snow and ice damage. The heavy weight of snow and ice is enough to break branches and stems of many plants. Evergreens are also prone to damage, but some can bounce back if treated properly.

Protection from Snow of Trees

There are several ways to help protect your plants from extensive winter damage.

  • Remove broken branches. This is easier to do on plants that have lost their leaves in the fall. It’s also important to remove weaker parts of evergreens and shrubs. Removing the broken parts minimizes the risk of disease, decay, and insects from deteriorating the plant even more.
  • Proper pruning. With the loss of some branches, a tree may look unbalanced, but most trees quickly grow new foliage that hides bare areas. Over-pruning can make matters worse. Prune at the branch collar—where a branch joins a larger one.
  • Remove hazards. Branches that already hang over structures, sidewalks, power lines, and other potential hazards should be removed.
  • Call for help if needed. Proper pruning is important any time of the year, but even more so when hazards are present. Contact local officials if the tree is on a public sidewalk. Check with a professional arborist if you have any questions about trees on your own property.
  • Careful snow removal. Be careful while shaking or brushing snow off plants, as it may cause branches to break. Gently push up on branches from below to help prevent stress.

Professional Snow Removal

Before breaking out a chainsaw, ladder, or removing larger branches, contact an insured, certified arborist for assistance. The specialists at Elite Tree Care can answer any questions about the best ways to remove snow on trees and other plants in your yard with minimal damage.

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