University of Illinois Extension


John Church
Extension Educator, Natural Resources
Rockford Extension Center

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Repair Storm Damaged Trees with Care

Winter snow and ice and windy spring weather can often cause damage to trees in northern Illinois. It is important to use proper pruning techniques to help restore these plants' beauty and health.

Remove damaged limbs as promptly as possible to help prevent insect and disease problems from developing. After a tree has been damaged, it may not be especially attractive for a few years, but proper pruning can help extend its life, and eventually, its beauty.

A major point to remember when doing any pruning is to make the cuts back to the nearest desirable limb. Do not leave stubs of limbs of any size showing after the pruning. Such stubs are good "conduits" for decay and increased insect activity.

Also, do not "top" trees to remove damaged branches. Use judicious selection and proper pruning methods on only the limbs that need repair. "Topping," or simply trimming off the ends of the branches at the top or side of the tree, often results in a very unattractive tree with a flush of weak branches sprouting from the pruning cut, called a "witches broom." Such branches are usually weak and have narrow branching angles, which can lead to further breakage.

Also, for the first year or so after the damage, the tree may produce many unbalanced branches. Remove the weaker or undesirable limbs as they appear.

The storm damage and pruning can cause a severe "shock" to the tree. To help counteract this, properly fertilize and water the trees. Fertilizing and continued pruning will help maintain balance, improve the tree's health, and help restore its beauty.

Routine annual pruning should be done when most trees are dormant, but repair pruning needs to be done as soon as feasible.

Following severe storms, contractors may approach homeowners to do repair work on trees. Remember these tips on pruning when approached by contractors. Be sure to ask about their techniques, experience, insurance, local references and other pertinent information.

In addition to the U. of I., Michigan State and Iowa State universities have fact sheets at

February - March 2005: Repair Storm Damaged Trees with Care | Diseases and Insects of Shrubs and Small Trees | Think Summer, Buy Summer Bulbs Now | Winter Damage to Home Lawns


Past Issues

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