Boughing to a Tree’s Winter NeedsThe Morton Arboretum Recommends Post-Snowfall Tree Care
LISLE, IL (February 1, 2008) – Trees and other plants might have that “winter wonderland” look after Mother Nature walloped us with a heavy snowfall. But their branches need special attention in this weather. Follow The Morton Arboretum guidelines for snow-related tree care, to minimize the potential damage to your landscape.
“People should take a broom and lightly tap their tree branches, just to release some of the heavy snow, enabling the branches to bounce back up into place,” says Doris Taylor, who manages the Arboretum Plant Clinic.
Pay particular attention to multi-stemmed evergreens, such as arborvitae and junipers. They are especially susceptible to damage as the snow’s weight may cause the branches to open too broadly and split the plant. Or, there may be damage you cannot see.
“The weight of the snow can cause internal damage to a branch – a crack might develop inside the wood. This branch no longer has the strength to pop back up into place when the snow is gone. You might have to stake that limb to support it until the plant develops new wood to strengthen the branch. In rare cases, this kind of damage could be fatal,” Taylor says.
Snow can crack large branches, leaving them hanging and in danger of falling, potentially injuring people or damaging property. These should be removed. If they are too large or too far up for the homeowner to handle, call a certified arborist to remove the branch.
“Homeowners should not get on a ladder to prune, or work around electrical wires,” Taylor says. But if they can stand safely on the ground and prune away smaller broken limbs now, this is a good idea.
With smaller shrubs, such as boxwood, simply brush the snow away with your hand.
To protect against future damage to trees, take a cloth, bunge cord, or another soft material, and tie the branches together, to support them against the weight of snow. Remember to untie the branches in spring.
Salt is harmful to trees. In soil, salt can impede the roots’ ability to take-up water. Salt can also burn leaves. Trees in parkways or near the street might get a heavy dose of salt when plows come through, or when homeowners shovel sidewalks. Try to shovel the snow first, before applying any de-icer. Also, to minimize the salt content in soil, try using kitty litter, pea gravel or sand instead of salt.
In a few days, when we expect to hit warmer temperatures, look for “frost heaving.” With a lack of snow cover, the moisture in soil causes the soil to push outward, in some cases lifting the whole plant, which can expose the roots to the elements. Homeowners should check for this, and if roots are exposed, they should be lightly pushed back into the ground. Or, homeowners should put a couple of inches of mulch to protect those exposed roots, and in the spring, replant if necessary.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of 4,057 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission – the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time or sunset, whichever is earlier. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through October, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November through February. Visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630-968-0074 to learn more.