How to Deal With Trees in Snow

When snowstorms occur, they usually leave significant damage to trees in their wake.

This is mainly due to the extra weight exerted by snow on trees. While some trees might better manage the weight, others aren’t as strong. As a result, some limbs may give way under the weight.

Now dealing with snow damage on trees requires understanding the situation and providing appropriate fixes. In this article, we’ll be discussing all that and more.

You’ll find information on how different tree categories (such as deciduous and conifers) recover from damages caused by snowstorms.

More importantly, we’ll discuss appropriate remedial actions to address the problem. With the tips provided, you should be able to implement the proper fix to the problem.

Dealing With Trees Covered in Snow

As winter sets in, all kinds of preparations are made in homes ranging from the insulation of pipes & spigots, adding coats & hand warmers, stocking up on fuel and alternative heat sources, as well as snow gear, including tires or chains.

Chimneys and furnaces are cleaned; moss and debris are removed from the roof.

Out of these many preparations, it’s those performed on plants and trees we’re more concerned about. Trees in snow face all kinds of stability and health challenges.

Some species (deciduous) are primarily dormant in winter. This is an exciting read if you’re wondering what winter holds for your trees.

Can I Shake Tree Branches to Get Rid of Ice & Snow?

After observing your tree branches bent under the weight of snow and ice, there’s a temptation to shake off the ice from it. Avoiding this urge is essential as it can cause the branch to snap.

You’re left with two options to manage the situation. One of them requires brushing off the snow.

Brushing off the snow-laden branches can be done by hand. This should be carefully executed to avoid putting more pressure on it.

Removing snow on trees through brushing is only possible when the snow is loose. However, when the snow has solidified or turned to ice, this option wouldn’t work.

The other alternative for dealing with snow on trees is to allow it to melt. Well-trimmed trees are pretty resilient and can hold up under the weight of accumulated ice until it melts.

Tree Damage Caused By Wet Snow

In winter, one challenge faced by trees is the accumulation of snow.

While this might not seem like a problem initially, the effects become more evident as snow accumulates. Some trees (especially young ones) might be unable to hold up the weight.

An apparent effect of the impact of snow on trees can be seen in conditions like breaking, bending, uprooting or falling, and splitting. Any of these conditions can cause severe damage to trees.

Plus, the tree’s shape and the number of snow counts determine the damage’s severity.

i. Breaking

With heavy snow comes steady accumulation, which exerts weight on the tree limb.

Here, the tree limb suddenly snaps under the weight when it reaches a critical point. Now the deformity caused by this condition could lead to further problems due to exposure to pathogens.

Trees affected by this condition are likely to take months to recover. Apart from that, the hazard posed by a broken tree can be significant, especially when there’s a lot of human activity around the area.

Proper cutting of the broken limb may be necessary to help it recover faster.

ii. Bending

Under heavy snow accumulation, a tree may be able to hold up.

However, bending may result due to the weight exerted by accumulated snow. Sometimes, the entire tree may bend. This tends to be familiar with tender or young trees.

You’ll need to put measures in place to prevent the weight of snow from causing damage. It’s essential to seek the advice of an arborist on what to do about your bending tree.

Such professional opinion allows you better take care of your tree.

iii. Uprooting or Falling

Trees exposed to heavy snow coupled with strong winds may be unable to survive the onslaught. This mainly applies to rigid and fully developed trees.

Because they steadily bear the brunt of snow storms, they might eventually topple over. This type of winter damage isn’t uncommon.

When it does occur, the service of an arborist is needed to remove the tree. The area is cleared when it’s safe enough to do the job.

If such a tree falls within a residential area, the need for its removal tends to be more urgent as it may be blocking the free flow of traffic, amongst other things.

iv. Splitting

Splitting is another type of damage to trees caused by snow.

Trees most vulnerable to splitting are those mainly located below a roof or structure. As massive snow amounts suddenly give way, the weight transfers to the tree below, which causes it to split.

Do Young Trees Stand a Chance in Snow?

Young trees are known to be generally weaker compared to fully established ones.

Such vulnerability creates added concerns about their wellbeing. If any of these trees have been planted recently, it’s unlikely to survive the onslaught of a snow storm.

However, you can help by covering exposed roots. Winter mulch might serve to keep the tree alive through the winter season. For uprooted trees with more than a third of their hearts exposed, little to nothing can be done to fix the problem.

For such, uprooting might be the last course of action.

  • Never Deal with this Situation Alone

During snowstorms, it’s common to find trees bearing a lot of weight from snow and ice.

The usual instinct for many will be to act by clearing these off or pruning away broken tree sections. More often than not, DIY measures do little to fix the problem.

If anything, they worsen the tree’s condition.

That is why it’s essential to call for competent help. Tree services offer many solutions, including resolving challenges with snow.

So, instead of further putting your trees in harm’s way, allowing the pros to handle the job is best. An array of possible solutions is adopted to achieve expected results.

Trees Most Vulnerable to Snow Damage

When growing a tree, it’s essential to consider a wide range of things, including how it will fare under snow. Certain tree species are most affected when exposed to wet snow.

Arborvitae species tend to do poorly when exposed to wet snow.

These are mostly planted as foundation screen plants or as hedge plants. Their multi-stemmed branches tend to separate under heavy snow.

This can deform the shrubs permanently as they don’t return to their original position or upright form even after the snow melts.

Preparing Your Trees for Snow Storms

Before winter sets in, it’s necessary to carry out essential maintenance procedures. This help maintains the health of the tree under harsh winter conditions.

Now trees are known to be exposed to different types of winter injuries. Such include root injury, frost heaving, and desiccation & browning of green leaves.

Other conditions include sun scald and dieback. Here, it’s evident that trees need to be protected from such injuries, hence the necessary preparation necessary.

Mulching, cleaning & pruning, trunk wrapping, and tree hardening are essential for better development.

i. Mulching

Mulching seeks to maintain a constant winter soil temperature, thus preserving tree roots.

As snowy conditions set in, a common occurrence is the thawing and freezing cycles that play out. This isn’t good for trees as they tend to be most vulnerable to damage due to root disruption.

With mulching, your tree’s condition is significantly improved. You won’t have to fear or worry when winter sets in. Because the tree needs breathing space, leave some room around the trunk.

If you have little idea how to perform this, consulting an arborist should help.

ii. Cleaning & Pruning

Yard cleanup of fallen branches is essential. Now you’ll need to have your tree pruned.

It’s best to have an arborist perform this procedure as they’re well skilled and trained. Plus, your tree is better for it. With proper pruning, heavy snow conditions are unlikely to affect your tree(s).

iii. Trunk Wrapping

Sunscald is a condition that commons with trees exposed to fluctuating temperatures.

Here, trunk cells are killed in the process. Early preparation helps you avoid sunscalds. Commercial tree wraps or similar materials will come in handy for safeguarding your tree.

Trunk wrapping is done from the base and moving up. If you have no idea how to do this, an arborist can help by handling the procedure.

iv. Tree Hardening

As the name implies, hardening helps your trees prepare for the harsh winter conditions ahead.

You have a role to play, including stopping all watering activity from late summer through early fall before winter sets in. Consult a professional for further guidance on this.

Recovery from a Snow Storm

Not all trees affected by storms can make a full recovery.

This is primarily due to the level of damage caused. Trees whose major branches have snapped under the weight of snow are unlikely to make a full recovery, significantly when many such components are damaged.

A tree with damaged limbs but an intact prominent leader is likely to recover with proper care. However, this isn’t a given as it could quickly die off when necessary interventions aren’t made immediately after the damage.

You’ll have to see an arborist to know if the tree will survive.

Intervention after Snow Damage

Several interventions may be made when tree limbs give way under the weight of snow.

Now, it’s essential to understand that this route is dangerous and could further damage the tree by exposing its woody tissue. You want the wound to be healed as quickly as possible.

The best pruning approach is having a licensed arborist perform the procedure. The DIY approach to pruning in winter exposes your tree(s) to more significant risks.

Proper pruning will get rid of tree branches without leaving behind short sections.

What more? Topping a fake tree will do more damage. It’s best to have the pros assess the tree’s condition to determine the right course of action.

Even when one side of a tree tends to be most affected than the other, it’s best to avoid the temptation of over-pruning.

Some types of pruning situations are complex and require expert assessment. One of such situations is when there’s a healthy branch between the affected section and the main stem.

Are DIY Tree Snow Solutions Completely Ineffective?

Staunch DIY’ers might still want to try their hands on problems like this. This approach isn’t completely ineffective. However, the possibility of fixing the problem is higher.

For persons who have handled such problems in the past or have some level of experience, this strategy can help offer real solutions.

To improve your success under this approach, you’ll have first to assess the surrounding area. Now, zero in on the damaged section of the tree. Be patient and remove potential hazards posed by the damage.

Easy-to-reach branches that are damaged can be pruned off.

How to Best Protect Your Trees from Snow

The best approach to dealing with snow issues on trees is prevention. This might sound so easy and direct, but it’s true.

Protection for trees involves ensuring they’re healthy before snow season arrives. Proactive steps towards maintaining tree health include effective pruning to maintain structural strength.

Trees that haven’t been pruned in a long time are most vulnerable to damages caused during a snowstorm. These trees usually have feeble or structurally weak limbs or branches.

Through dormant pruning practices, a tree is pruned ahead of time in readiness for winter.

Well pruned trees will always be structurally sound and be able to withstand damage due to snowstorms. Not everyone is well suited to perform effective tree pruning.

Calling a trained professional such as an arborist to handle your pruning needs goes a long way in preventing the problem.


As discussed above, trees in snow are exposed to harsh conditions, which can affect proper development. Maintaining your tree is highly necessary as it helps with better growth.

Dealing with snow on trees involves all the above steps. We’ve seen the different options available to you. All you have to do is choose what serves your needs best.

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