Protecting Your Trees and Shrubs from Snow Damage

Ah, the beauty of a mid-winter snowfall. Curled up in the easy chair with a hot cuppa, gazing out the window as your trees and shrubs are transformed into frosted confections.

But wait. What’s this wintry mix doing to my trees and shrubs?!

Of course, the best defense against snow damage to your landscape is careful year-round pruning and a general buttoning-up before the cold weather arrives. That said, there are a few things you can do to lessen the impact of wintry precipitation on your greenery. Important caveats: do only what you can do without the use of a ladder or any type of saw. (Anything more should be left to the professionals.)

Lighten up those snow-laden branches

It’s a good idea to remove snow from trees and shrubs after each snowfall to prevent a build-up that could put dangerous loads on the branches. But be careful. Stand to the side of tree branches, not underneath them, in case that branch, or one nearby, breaks off. Gently brush the snow from branches in an upward direction, since tugging down on an already vulnerable branch could turn out to be “the last straw.” Don’t shake the branches, and if the snow does not yield easily to your broom because it has frozen onto the branch, leave it to melt naturally.

Ice? Steer Clear

There’s very little that can be done to prevent damage from ice storms. When trees on your property suffer broken limbs from ice, or are laying on or near downed power lines, the most important consideration is safety. Don’t attempt to knock ice off the branches. Keep humans and pets safely out of harm’s way. Falling tree branches that are coated with ice can weigh hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds. If fallen branches are laying on or near damaged power lines, get the power company in to make its repairs before any tree work begins.

Repairing the damage

If a broken, dangling tree limb poses a danger to passing pedestrians, you should have it removed by a tree professional as soon as safely possible. Otherwise, it’s best to wait until things warm up before making any repairs. A certified arborist can assess the damage and the condition of the tree, and recommend pruning or removal. In many instances, a clean cut at the site of a broken limb will allow the wound to heal nicely as it heads into the spring growing season. With proper care, most trees will recover.



Beth Berlin, “Snow storm damage to your trees and shrubs,” Stearns County News, University of Minnesota Extension, November 23, 2016, accessed February 4, 2017,

Charlotte Glen, “Helping trees and shrubs recover from snow and ice,” Chatham County Center,  NC Cooperative Extension, updated January 6, 2017, accessed February 4, 2017,

Margaret Hagen, “Repairing Storm Damage to Trees and Shrubs,” The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, January 2007, accessed February 3, 2017,

Mike Reichenbach and Phil Sell, “Stay safe after ice storm, leave trees alone until ice melts,” Extension News, University of Minnesota Extension, April 11,2013, accessed February 5, 2017,

Sharon Yiesla, “Prevent ice and snow damage to trees and shrubs,” Home Hort Hints, University of Illinois Extension, accessed February 5, 2017,