winter damaged trees - pruning-yard clean up

Pruning Winter Damaged Trees & Shrubs

Winter is hard on trees and shrubs. Heavy wet snow, freezing ice storms, and high winds all have the potential to damage trees. Winter damage to trees is sometimes obvious with broken limbs or it may be slow, not showing up until spring. The degree of the injury will determine when to prune after winter damage.

When to Prune After Winter Damage

The ideal time for pruning winter damaged trees and shrubs is in early spring. This will give you a chance to observe whether the tree or shrub is in recovery mode and what, if any, limbs need to be removed. Cold weather damage to trees and shrubs occurs at many levels. If there are loose branches, remove them at the time of the injury. All other pruning should wait until the plant is no longer dormant. This is when you can tell whether a branch is still alive or requires removal. Remove no more than 1/3 of the plant material when pruning winter damaged trees and shrubs. If more pruning needs to be done, wait until the following spring.

How to Prune Winter Damaged Trees

The following tips will help when pruning winter damaged trees or shrubs becomes necessary:

  • Use sharp tools to avoid further injury to the tree or shrub.
  • Make pruning cuts at an angle that reflects moisture away from the cut, reducing the chance of mold or fungal issues.
  • Keep cuts outside the trunk by removing outside the branch collar, the bump around the secondary growth where it grows from the parent wood.
  • pruning winter damaged branchesLarge branches need to be removed with 3 cuts. Make one under the branch, one over it and then the final cut. This reduces the chance that the weight of the tree will pull the branch down and cause a tear, creating a bigger wound and often exposing the cambium.
  • Cut back to green wood to ensure that the remaining plant material is alive.

Treating Trees and Shrubs with Winter Damage

Pruning isn’t the only method of treating trees and shrubs with winter damage. If a limb is lightly split, use a tree sling or wire to support the limb. Occasionally, such light damage will heal itself and the limb can be freed after a few seasons. Provide deep, infrequent watering during the dry months. Avoid fertilizing a tree until all danger of frost is passed or you might promote new growth that will damage in cold easily. Pruning winter damaged trees and shrubs may not be necessary at all if there are no broken main limbs or branches. Providing the right care and ensuring the health of the tree or shrub is at its peak, most damage will not cause any significant long-term problems. It’s a wise to prune young trees to create a strong scaffold and prevent top heavy plants and unbalanced limbs. This will help prevent future injury and build a sturdy frame.

Scaffold branches are primary limbs that form a tree’s canopy. Secondary branches that emerge from scaffold branches are laterals. Growth comes from buds at the tips of branches (terminal buds), or along branch sides (lateral buds).

Leave it to the “Professionals”

Don’t have the time or the tools? Not to worry. Twisted Oak Landscaping will assess your trees and shrubs for winter damage and do the necessary pruning.

Need more info?

Give us a call at 647-881-2980 or request a consultation.