Gardening Tips and Highlights Waushara County Master Gardeners

Snow load

by Christine Yesko


The most serious threat to our plants from snow is when it is wet and heavy. Worse yet is the weight of ice when it coats tree branches and the leaves of evergreens.

Snow of the light, fluffy variety is actually good for our plants. It is a great insulator that actually protects the crowns and root of herbaceous perennials and flower buds on shrubs.

When a winter storm lays a blanket of snow heavy enough to severely bend evergreen boughs, you have a decision to make: Do you leave it and wait for it to melt before the branches begin forming cracks and breaking, or do you intervene and remove it? Removing it may seem logical, but in the process, you may cause more damage.

If the weather isn’t likely to melt it soon, you may choose to remove it. Use extreme caution. Do not use a broom to beat the snow off the limbs from above. Instead, do it from underneath, pushing the branches upward with the broom or maybe even just use the handle to knock it off. Damage to branches bent severely by the snow can be deceiving.

If it is heavy enough for long enough, the branches may not spring back up even once spring arrives and warms them up. This kind of damage can be avoided by using webbing at least one-inch wide, to tie branches upright inside the plant where it is not visible. It can even retrain branches to the upright position over a year or two.

Sometimes branches will pop back up to a normal position and you will think they survived unscathed. Then come mid-June or so—when summer heats up and large quantities of water are demanded by the foliage—leaves on those branches will turn brown and die. At this point, it does seem logical to equate the damage with snow load. However, there can be many small cracks that were caused when the branches were bent that did not heal and now prevent water movement up the stems.


It always seems like a mystery unless you think back to that snow storm you are trying to forget. This article was obtained from Wisconsin Gardening.