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HOMELawn Care Articles

by Carole Schwalm A small tree branch with a layer of snow and encased in ice.

The First Day of Spring (March 20 at 12:57 EDT) – Winter isn’t over yet.

Chances are you are about tired of the winter, but there are a few weeks remaining. Once a thaw occurs you’ll have an opportunity to get up close to access damage to your trees and shrubs. More importantly, you’ll need to do something about it. Winter storm damage is harder on deciduous trees than it is on conifers.

Many trees suffer from split trunks and lose major limbs. According to the Arbor Day Foundation, slight damage should be pruned. If trees have strong limbs, they can withstand minor damage, even losing large heavy limbs but you’ll have to do pruning or have a professional work on the tree or trees.

Assessing the damage and pruning can be done early, but The Arbor Day Foundation advises waiting if you think you have to cut the tree down. You may find that once it thaws, the trees begin recovering on their own. Also when you prune don’t prune too heavily because the tree needs the limbs and foliage.

Grass peaking through a footprint in the snow. Check out the National Arbor Day Foundation at for illustrations about types of damage.

The weight of snow bends, breaks and can misshape conifers. Gently brush off big clumps of snow. The American Conifer Society recommends that you start at the top of the tree and brush downward, with the keyword being ‘gently.’ If the snow turns to ice, it is best to leave it because you can do more damage trying to remove the ice than it actually causes.

Many of the conifers are bending in the direction the storm came from, and ice fused the branches.

A snowfall can insulate plants and shrubs. You may discover that the depth of the snow, or the snow line, the plants are damaged above and not below the line. Most of our perennials and shrubs are better off if it stays cold than if it is cold, warms, then turns cold again. Look for branch die-back. Buds may not develop properly.

Share your tree and shrub pruning experience or if you'd like more information.