How to protect trees, shrubs damaged during a snowstorm

DENVER -- It may be the last good snowfall in the Denver metro area, but as many enjoy looking out the window, some forget that it comes with a price for trees and shrubs. 

This latest spring snowstorm won't leave a big mark and so damage to trees and shrubs may be minimal, but Denver7 wants you to be prepared -- which is why we have compiled the following information so you can protect your shrubs and trees during and after this snowstorm. 

Contributing factors that may damage trees, shrubs

Rapid change in temperatures

A rapid change or drop in temperatures can stress or cause injury to trees, and extended periods of mild winter weather can de-acclimate plants, making them vulnerable to drastic changes in weather.

Low temperatures

Arboretum officials say some species of trees or shrubs can be damaged if temperatures fall below “a minimum tolerance level.”

Frost cracks

Frost cracks appear as shallow to deep cracks running top to bottom in the trunk of trees. They most often happen on the south or southwest sides of trees. Once a frost crack appears, it is likely to reappear every year after that.

Snow and ice breakage

Multi-stemmed evergreens such as yews, arborvitae and junipers are often the most prone to heavy snow and ice storm damage, an Arboretum official said.

How to protect your snow-damaged plants, shrubs and trees

Experts with Colorado State Forest Service have these tips for protecting and repairing them:

  • Check for hazards. Before approaching a tree, examine your surroundings to avoid making contact with downed utility lines or standing under broken, hanging branches.
  • Contact city officials if necessary. Trees between the street and a city sidewalk may be the responsibility of city crews.
  • Assess the damage. If a tree is healthy overall and still possesses its leader (the main upward branch), most of its major limbs and 50 percent or more of its crown, the chance is good for a complete recovery.
  • Be careful knocking snow off branches. This may cause the branches to break. If you must remove snow, gently push up on branches from below to prevent adding additional stress.
  • Remove broken branches. This minimizes the risk of decay and insects or diseases entering the wound. Prune at the branch collar - the point where a branch joins a larger one - and be mindful of potential pent-up energy if the branch is twisted or bent.
  • Don't over-prune. With the loss of some branches, a tree may look unbalanced, but most trees quickly grow new foliage that hides bare areas.
  • Don't try to do it all yourself. If the job requires running a chainsaw overhead, sawing from a ladder or removing large branches or entire trees, contact an insured, certified arborist. Professionals often are listed in the phone book under "tree services."

For more information about tree care and protection, visit the Colorado State Forest Service website at www.csfs.colostate.edu. To find an ISA-certified arborist, visit www.isa-arbor.com.

Information about contributing factors to tree and shrub damage came from the Morton Arboretum

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