University of Illinois Extension

Protecting Trees and Shrubs

During winter, the threat of snow or ice damage is always near for trees and shrubs, warned Sharon Yiesla, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

“One way to prevent damage to trees and shrubs is by removing snow after each snowfall,” said Yiesla. “This helps to prevent snow from piling up to dangerously heavy loads.

“When removing snow, try to gently brush it off. Don’t shake the branches as this may cause them to break. This is especially true for evergreens which can collect excessive amounts of snow.”

Yiesla noted that if snow is frozen on the branch and will not brush off easily, it is best to let it melt naturally, to avoid damage to the tree or shrub.

“Relatively little can be done to prevent ice damage,” she said. “On small-to-medium evergreen shrubs, pour warm--not hot--water over the ice to attempt to loosen it. This will not always be effective. It can also be a messy process since the water will freeze below the plant and may become a safety hazard if people are walking nearby.”

If tree limbs break due to the weight of ice or snow, it is advisable to have the broken limbs removed as soon as the weather permits. Hanging branches can be a danger to passing pedestrians.

“The tree will be able to heal the wound better in spring, if the wound has clean edges, instead of ragged tears,” she noted.