heavy snow

Heavy Snow: Tree Care

Heavy snow usually means clearing the sidewalk, scraping the car, and defrosting pipes. Winter storms can have a major impact on trees. Tree trunks and boughs can crack and break under the strain of heavy wet snow on them for long periods of time. This can cause serious damage and injury to unsuspecting people, pets, cars, and houses in their way.

However, it’s not just heavy snow that is the problem. Ice can also wreak havoc on trees as well. Trees bear the brunt of storms and can be quite vulnerable, even large trees.

Heavy Snow: Tree Care

Bough Breaks

Snow and Ice storms leave trees with leaves at greater risk. There is more surface area for the snow to cling to, making thinner and new branches vulnerable. The best thing to do after a heavy snowfall is to gently push up the tree branches with a broom so that snow can fall off. This will require more effort for branches closer to the trunk as the branches will be thicker. Removing the snow off the tree branches before the next round of snowfall will help prevent more snow damage.

Frost cracks

Frost cracks happen when there is a sudden drop in temperature after a heavy snowfall. Long, vertical cracks can appear on the trunk as the outer layer contracts quicker than the inner layer. A crack can be innocuous and appear perennially. However, they should be inspected regularly as it is not always clear how deep or safe the cracks are. The best place to look is on the south side or southwest side of the tree. This is where the biggest fluctuations in temperature occur between day and night. Don’t attempt to remove ice from the cracks, this could lead to warping and breaking. ISA-certified arborists recommend letting the ice thaw.

Preventative maintenance

Ensure your trees are well maintained year-round by hiring a tree care company. Here are some tips to consider from a tree care professional before the snow season.


Newly planted small trees and saplings can be wrapped from top to bottom. Be sure the tree is well-hydrated before wrapping. Remove any debris and fallen leaves from around the tree. Mulching around the base will help to keep out the permafrost. Place a layer of mulch around the tree with a radius of about two feet, two to four inches thick, but do not touch the base with mulch.


Pruning helps to have a structurally sound, strong, and healthy tree. Some people fail to realize that trees still grow in the winter. The best time to properly prune trees is towards the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Tall trees that appear to have damaged limbs or broken branches might need a tree care service company to address the weaknesses. A certified arborist will be able to trim branches before they fall and become hazardous.


Take a look at the branches and see if you can identify any weak branches that you would like to keep. If so, fasten a cable along the branch and then secure it around the trunk a little higher up. The cable should then be ratcheted up, but not too tight. If the cable is too tight, it can make a branch inflexible and snap during heavy snowfall.


Shrubs and bushes are also vulnerable to the ravages and weight of heavy snowfall. Therefore, they should also receive preventative maintenance. Shrubs and bushes can be pruned, mulched, and hydrated before being wrapped. It may be a good idea to circle a cable around them to bring the branches closer together and make them more vertical. Reducing the surface area will help make sure the snow won’t knock them down.

Get familiar with your surroundings

If you are new to the area, conduct some research to determine the best way to care for your trees in the winter. Start by identifying the trees in the yard, those that are evergreen, and those that shed leaves. Meet with your neighbors and see if they have the same tree species. Chances are your neighbors will know the weather pattern and be able to describe the impact on the various tree species and avoid storm damage. Lastly, contact a tree care provider in your area to receive the best winter tree care tips.

Additional Reading: Snow and Ice Damage on Trees

Tree Services of Omaha

Tree Services of Omaha, Nebraska is a full-service tree care provider that offers a wide range of arborist services including but not limited to: Tree Removal Services, Tree Trimming, Tree Pruning, Tree and shrubs Shaping, Stump Removal, Stump Grinding, Arborist Consultations, Systemic Tree Injections. Contact us today for a free estimate!