Snow-capped trees and ice-tipped shrubs may be pretty to look at it, but both can cause some not-so-pretty damage to plantings on your property.
“Snow will cause the branches to separate,” explains Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist of the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Such action can lead to bent, split or broken branches, or, worse, fallen or uprooted trees.
Andersen advises homeowners to avoid planting arborvitae species if they live in an area that receives heavy, wet snow often. Arborvitae species tend to grow tall, with multi-stemmed branches that are low to the ground.
“Small, rounded, woody-stemmed plants would be a better choice, but make certain to give them enough root space away from the structure,” Andersen cautions. She recommends planting them near homes where snow can fall off the roof all at once in large piles.
A tree's form can be a factor in how well it will withstand heavy snow and ice storms. Coniferous evergreens can bear more snow weight than broadleaf evergreens, for instance. Pine (low altitude), spruce and fir with spread branches are more likely to be damaged by heavy snowfall than trees with steeper angled branches. In ice storms, a tree with good, right-angle branches will have less trouble than one with narrow, more vertical branch crotches.
The timing of snowfall can also be a factor in determining potential for damage. With a wet snow in March, when there are no leaves on the branches, the tree may be able to withstand damage pretty well—but that same snow in late spring or early fall, when the tree is filled with leaves, could add unbearable weight.
Still, not all damage is cause for concern.
“A little breakage isn’t always bad,” Andersen adds. “Nature prunes, trees, too. A wet snow may break off small twigs and dead branches. It can do a good job of pruning that way. Just follow up with some cleaning cuts."
In some instances, snow and ice cover can actually be beneficial.
“Snow is both friend and foe to trees and shrubs," says Andersen. “Snow causes its share of damage, as we all know, but in many cases it also protects plants and their roots against extreme fluctuations in temperature that could damage or even kill them.”
Published with permission from RISMedia.