Trees and Snow

Oct 29, 2019 | Education, Homeowner Tree Tips

We always dread those fall or late spring snowstorms when trees are most susceptible to damage from snow. It doesn’t help that during this time we still have some deciduous trees with leaves left on them. This can put even more strain on the branches of our trees. Our evergreen trees, like pine and spruce, are made for this on the other hand. There are some exceptions. When we get ice and snow combined this can cause breakage in any species of tree. If you are wondering how to prevent this the answer is to keep your trees properly pruned.

If you prune your trees every 3-5 years, they are less likely to endure damage during a snow storm. Getting rid of dead or weak branches can greatly reduce branch failure.

Good/Poor Tree Quality Graphic

Figure 1 Proper tree structure

If your tree has poor structure it is more susceptible to limb breakage. Make sure when having your trees pruned that you prune with the future structure of the tree in mind. You want to avoid having codominant leaders and any branch unions with included bark.

Co-Dominant Leaders

Figure 2 Co-dominant leaders

Proper Branch Union

Figure 2 proper branch union on the right

Something else to consider is thinning those longer branches. Those longer branches that can get heavy on the outer portion with a wet snow load can be pruned so that the weight is more evenly distributed along the branch. Avoid “lions tailing” when pruning any branches and your tree will benefit from it.

Lion's Tailing

Figure 3 Lions Tailing

With younger trees you can lightly brush the snow off the limbs to avoid breakage. It is important to be gentle and brush in an upward motion because the branches are cold and brittle. Don’t brush downwards, this will only put more stress on the limbs.

If you would like to get your trees pruned, we have some knowledgeable local arborist who can help. Go to to find a list of local licensed arborists.


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