Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How can I repair snow, ice or wind damage on my plants?

Ice and snow along with strong winds often damages landscape trees and shrubs. When this happens, assess the damage from two perspectives. First, can the damage be repaired or is it so severe that the best option is to remove the plant. Second, if the plant is to be saved, can the damage be repaired easily and safety without professional help or do you need to hire an arborist to do the work.

Tree work can be expensive, but if the tree is of particular value, the investment is worth it. Investing money to repair a seriously damaged tree, however, may not be warranted since the tree may never be attractive again and may even become a further hazard. A good arborist is the best judge of a tree's condition and whether it should be repaired after suffering heavy damage.

Major tree work is dangerous. Let a professional arborist work on large trees, trees near utility wires, buildings, and other landscape plants. Many homeowners are injured or do serious property damage while attempting tree work. Also, if you aren't familiar with proper tree maintenance procedures, you may do further damage to the tree when you attempt repairs.

When snow, ice, or wind, damage shrubs or small trees, the following pruning tips will help you make the repairs. Repair damage as soon as possible so the wound can begin to heal properly. When pruning out broken branches, stems or stubs make clean cuts with sharp tools. Do not make jagged cuts or leave stubs as these will not heal properly and invite decay. Prune tree branches back to the main trunk , but leave the swollen point of attachment, known as the branch collar, intact. You should make the cut one-half inch to the outside of the collar. On multi-stemmed deciduous shrubs, remove damaged stems at ground level. This stimulates new growth from the base. Typically, it is not necessary to paint pruning wounds on trees and shrubs.

Although you cannot completely eliminate damage from wind, ice, and snow, you can prevent much of it with proper maintenance and pruning. Some trees, most notable maples and lindens, naturally develop dense crowns. As trees mature, wind has a harder time passing through the branches. As a result, strong winds often damage the trees. Pruning will remove the stems beneath the tree's crown to allow better air flow through the branches and reduce the chance of wind damage. Regular pruning will also remove dead, broken, and cracked branches. Branches growing upright, are more nearly parallel to the main trunk and are less strong and vulnerable to splitting under strain. Branches with greater than 45 degrees crotch angles are stronger. Evergreen trees and shrubs, particularly upright cultivars of arborvitae, junipers, and yews, are very prone to damage from heavy ice and snow loads. When possible, brush off accumulating snows using a careful upward sweeping motion to prevent breaking branches. Multiple trunks of these plants can also be tied together for support by using wire, plastic cord or plastic rope. When tying trunks, use wire slipped through sections of garden hose wrapped around the trunk and do not wrap or tie the wire snug against the branch. Instead, leave room for the branch to expand. This will prevent girdling. Trees can also be cabled or braced to prevent ice, snow, and wind damage. These techniques are especially useful on large, valuable trees, but an arborist is usually needed for this type of work.