University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article


By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont


Neither wind, nor rain, nor sleet, nor hail may stop your trusty mailman from delivering your letters, but when it comes to the elements, your landscape plants may not be as rugged. They need your help to withstand severe weather conditions.

Wet snow that accumulates on tree and shrub branches can bend them over. Some may break and so must be removed. Bending damages the bark and cambium tissue, leading to cankers or death of the stem the following growing season.

Shrubs that would collapse under heavy snow loads can be protected or supported. To protect small shrubs, place crates or wooden tepees over them in the fall. These protective coverings will support some of the snow load.

Taller shrubs can be wrapped with cord. Tie the cord to the base of a stem and then wind it around the shrub. The tied bundle of stems will help support one another.

Ice causes similar injuries as those in the north country all too well know from the winter of 1998. Plants that are regularly bent over by ice should be supported. For smaller plants use a bicycle tire inner tube or similar landscape material looped loosely around the stems. Larger plants require cables. The supports need to be flexible as rigid supports may cause breakage at the point of support. Such breakage commonly occurs when wooden props or stepladders are placed under ice-laden branches.

Do not try to remove the ice. It normally melts in a short time. Ice-covered branches are heavy, so trying to remove ice is likely to cause additional damage.

Hail can damage the bark on young branches and shred the leaves. Branches with heavily damaged bark may die. Prune away these dead branches.

Wind injury is usually obvious and not difficult to diagnose. Wind can break branches or the trunk, uproot trees, and split forked trees. To prevent injury, cut back the stubs of broken branches to just outside the shoulder ring. You can repair split trees with a combination of threaded steel rods and cables, but the results may not justify the expense.

A large uprooted tree should be removed, but you may be able to save smaller trees by replanting the exposed roots as soon as possible. Sometimes the roots are not exposed, but the root zone is lifted up when the tree's roots are pulled upward. In either case, guy the tree for support, then water to settle the soil back around the roots. Some die back may occur. The extent will depend on the amount of root injury the tree suffered.

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