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Should you knock snow off trees and shrubs or leave it?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to cleaning heavy snow off shrubs, and both have their own merits. One school feels you should leave things alone until weather improves, since there is a high likelihood of breaking extra branches with your attempts. Worst of all, would be cutting off some bent branches that will eventually spring back when weather improves.


Ornamental cherry tree split by heavy snow
No need to be in a rush on this cherry, since it will probably have to be completely removed

The other school of thought is the sooner you get heavy snow off shrubs the better. Iím inclined to agree with this second school of thought for a couple reasons.

First, some trees and shrubs in the Arborvitae family donít fair well in heavy snow storms anytime. As soon as snow starts to build-up on these fragile evergreens, branches begin bending. Once they are slightly bent, they become susceptible to even more snow build-up and breakage.

Second, would be if you have some neatly pruned pom-pom evergreens in your yard. It is far too easy for Ďstickyí snow to build-up on these expensive specimens and either lay them open or bend them over. Neither situation has a good outcome.

Third would be the trees and shrubs with softwood. You know the ones, they break first in every storm. Ornamental Pears come to mind first, but are usually too tall to effectively knock the snow off.

Pear damaged by heavy snows
Ornamental Pear ruined by heavy snow accumulation

With either method, being pro-active or re-active to removing snow from plants, they often have excessive build-up before you are able to act. If they are bent to the ground and frozen, it is probably best to leave them. However, if it is just a few big blobs of snow holding them down, strategically removing that snow will allow many branches and trees to begin straightening.


Once spring arrives it may be necessary to stake and/or wrap some of the plants that received the most damage. The best material for bundling multi-stemmed plants back together is that green stretchy tape sold at most garden centers. Otherwise a decent strength twine will do, just be sure to check your plants periodically to see if the twine may need loosened.

As for the plants that had to be removed, you may want to consider replacements that handle snow storms better. Most nurseries can help guide you through the varieties they have available. Weather can humble a gardener faster than anything and snow is just one of the many ways.

Juniper spead open by heavy snowfall
This evergreen would benefit from having the major snow knocked off the top, allowing branches to rebound.

Birch bent with heavy snows
Birches can get bent to the ground like this and still fully recover, but it's a 'wait and see' on this one.


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