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GardenSMART :: 4 Steps to Help Trees Survive Winter

4 Steps to Help Trees Survive Winter

By Davey Tree Expert Company
Photographs courtesy of Davey Tree Expert Company

Just like your sturdy snow boots keep you safe and warm throughout winter, your trees need the same treatment. As you may have guessed, you won't find snow boots in their size.

Instead, there's a better way to keep your trees safe and strong this winter. Dave Bargerstock from Davey Tree says prepping trees is one of the most important tasks to do in your landscape.

"The more time you spend preparing now, the less time you'll spend reacting later. Plus, your trees will emerge healthier and perform better when they awaken from dormancy. On the flip side, if plants enter winter stressed, their problems will only worsen," Bargerstock adds.

With winter not officially arriving until December 21, be sure to use these four steps to keep your trees safe this season.   

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1. Brace Trees to Keep 'Em Strong

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Reinforce the structure and integrity of your trees. "Most importantly, check trees that loom over your car or home since those could do the most damage," Bargerstock says.

Have a local, certified arborist examine your trees for weak limbs and fortify them with cables if needed. Cabling helps trees better withstand high winds, ice, and snow, so they're less likely to break.  

2. Prune to Minimize Fallen Limbs

While you're making your trees strong, be sure to remove the weak links! The rule of thumb is to remove any dead, diseased or damaged branches. Doing this before winter storms means you reduce the amount of debris that will fall during storms.

As a bonus, one of the best times to prune trees is in winter when trees are dormant.

3. Inspect after Storms to Prevent Damage

When you see ice or snow pile on tree branches, your first instinct is to free them of that weight.

"Shaking ice or snow off tree branches doesn't help. It can cause branches to break or damage the tree's circulatory system–unless the snow is light and fluffy. Then, shake it off!" Bargerstock notes.

Plus, if you've pruned, you've already removed the most vulnerable branches. The remaining limbs will soon bounce back to their natural form. If you do see any small, broken branches after a storm, trim them.

4. Wash Away Your Troubles

While adding rock salt to sidewalks and driveways in winter keeps us safe, it has the opposite effect on our trees.  

Worried your evergreen is damaged by rock salt? Needles that turn pale green or yellow are a telling sign of damage. For deciduous trees (the ones that lose their leaves in winter), the symptoms are not so obvious. When snow has piled up near a tree, rock salt can seep into the tree's roots and result in dry soil, bark discoloration or canopy dieback.

"If you spread rock salt in winter, choose one with calcium chloride, which is less harmful to plants than sodium chloride salt," Bargerstock says. "Then, as the snow melts, wash away any salt on tree trunks to minimize damage."

Follow these guidelines to help trees stand strong in winter storms. Contact Dave Bargerstock, or any of our local, certified arborists, for an evaluation. They'll determine if your tree poses a danger, based on soil conditions, wind exposure, defects, overall health and additional factors–and provide a remedy.

The Davey Tree Expert Company's approximately 9,000 employees provide diversified tree services, grounds maintenance and environmental services for the residential, utility, commercial and government markets throughout the U.S. and Canada. Davey has provided Proven Solutions for a Growing World since 1880 and has been employee-owned for 38 years. For more information, visit


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