Your Tree's Health May Be on Thin Ice

Your Tree's Health May Be on Thin Ice

It’s official. With the arrival of the season’s first snowstorm and plunging temperatures, it’s safe to say the winter weather season is here, for some of us, at least. Whether you are cozied up next to a fire or still enjoying the mild temperatures outdoors, now is the time to prepare your trees for winter’s potential slick conditions.

Northern Regions:

The northern U.S. and Canada are no strangers to the struggles of the season, especially after last year’s brutal winter. Before temperatures get any colder and the snow begins to fall, protect your trees from possible ice damage.

1. Hydrate now: Since trees receive water from their roots, a frozen ground equals a frozen water supply. If you are in a region that is susceptible to frozen soil due to snow and ice storms, hydrate your trees’ roots now to help them survive the winter and combat insufficient water supplies.

2. Prune, cable or brace: After a snow or ice storm hits, your trees are now faced with added weight on their branches, which can lead to bending and breaking. Your first instinct is probably to attempt to shake off the ice from the branches, but think again. Instead, prune, cable or brace weak, diseased or unsafe branches.

When ice covers your trees, don’t just shake it off. Instead, prune, cable or brace weakened branches.

3. Say no to salt: Road salt can be a tree’s worst enemy. If there are large beds of ice or snow around your tree, never throw salt in an attempt to melt it. It’s best to leave the snow or ice where it is. In fact, it’s the salt inside of the snow or ice piles—built up from plowing--  that actually damages your tree, not the piles themselves.

Southern Regions:

Even though you may not be expecting inches of snow or sub-zero temperatures, you can prepare your trees for cooler temperatures you typically experience this season.

1. Dormant prune: Since your trees are in their inactive season, it is actually the best time to prune. Dormant pruning can help trees withstand winter damage and protect against insects and disease.

2. More mulch: Mulching your trees, especially those that are young, helps retain moisture in the soil, protect roots against colder weather and reduces moisture lost to weed competition. Surround your tree’s base with 1- to 3-inch-deep spread of mulch.

3. Inspect for insects: Certain insects use trees as resting place over the winter. For example, scale insects overwinter on twigs and bark, and aphids embed egg in bark crevices. An application of horticultural oil during the dormant season can help suppress spring infestations.

4. Don’t forget your palms: Palms should be protected from freezing temperatures by applying a fungicide to the crown to protect the single growing bud from infection. Also, wrapping the fronds upwards will provide a protected environment that reduces the likelihood of damage to the bud.  

Need help protecting your trees from ice damage? Contact your local, professionally trained Davey arborist for a free consultation.

Add a comment:
Featured or Related Blog Posts
  • Oh, the Weather Outside is ... Mild

    The sun is shining. The birds are singing. The sky is a vibrant blue.

    I'm wearing a light jacket and gloves. There's a very slight chill in the air but the warmth from the sun wipes that away before it can even bother me. This weekend, taking a walk with my dog in the park, the pathways were rather full of others doing the same. They were smiling and jogging and taking in the scenery. Most of their heads were free of the typical tassel-topped hats that are signatures of the season.

    Though the leaves aren't on the trees yet and my spring bulbs aren't shooting up, the anticipation and excitement of the new season are so tangible I can practically taste them in the crisp air. And seeing the light in others' eyes and the skip in their steps tells me they are feeling the same.

    Read More
  • Winter Wonderland

    One of my favorite things to do in the winter is sit by my back windows and watch the bright blue birds eat the brilliant fruit off of my crabapple tree.

    It's one of those trees that, despite losing its leaves and becoming a seemingly uninteresting skeleton, transforms into a gathering place for the birds, tweeting and twittering as they munch on the abundant red spheres on the branches. And the arrival of cold weather often adorns the tree in striking frost. The crabapple is truly a tree with incredible winter appeal that brings enjoyment to my whole family.

    And what is a landscape if not a canvas for providing yourself with endless enjoyment in every season, regardless of what Mother Nature may bring in the form of harsh winds, sleet, snow and ice.

    Read More
  • Keep Winter Scavengers From Ruining Your Silent Nights

    To catch a better glimpse of the snowfall most of the Midwest has yet to receive, I recently made a visit to New Jersey, which was struck by a memorable Snowtober this fall. I walked among the trees nearby, marveling at the beautiful, fluffy, white snow on their branches and enjoying the calming atmosphere. All was quiet, peaceful.

    One line from The Night Before Christmas comes to mind: "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

    But then I contemplated the authenticity of that familiar phrase. Despite the serene appearance of winter landscapes, does snow protect trees and shrubs from winter scavengers? Voles and deer, for example, are quiet creatures that can cause severe damage to your trees. In fact, critters could be tunneling just below the soil surface, under sheets of white snow, wreaking havoc without your knowledge.

    Read More
  • 20/20 Vision

    I could stare at fall foliage for hours at one time, mesmerized by its variety and vibrancy.

    It's exciting to witness the transformation from a lustrous, yet static, bright green canopy to a cornucopia of color among the leaves. The warmer shades of the color spectrum begin to take over, with a few glimpses of purples and plums sprinkled in throughout the leafy scenery.

    But when the winds begin to pick up, even the slightest breeze detaches a few fragile leaves from surrounding tree branches - one by one - gradually revealing the bark and hinting winter is near.

    Read More
  • Prevent Ice Damage on Trees

    There's nothing worse than walking out the front door, confidently bundled up in a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves only to take that first certain step and have the  ice lurking beneath the snow make you do a slipping, sliding dance where your legs brace in a slight squat position and your arms flail out trying to help keep yourself balanced and upright.

    Absolutely no one looks cool doing the ice dance.

    When ice coats trees in thick crystal layers, forming perfect icicles that clink together, making pretty music in the wind, it can be a beautiful site (and sound). That is until evergreens start to double over and deciduous tree branches hang heavy as if weeping.

    Read More

Request a consultation

What do you need services for?
Sorry, we can’t seem to find the zip code you specified. Our residential tree care offices may not service your area. If you believe this is an error, please try again. Need help? Email us at
  • Email newsletter
  • Woodchips
*Please fill out all required fields.