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How to Protect Shrubs From Snow

By D.C. Winston ; Updated September 21, 2017
The weight of snow on shrubs can cause permanent damage if not managed.

Snow seems lightweight when falling but buildup of snow and ice on your shrubs can cause disfigurement and limb breakage over the course of a single winter. Shrubs that do not renew themselves from ground, such as juniper or needle evergreens, are often permanently damaged with no means to renew their natural form. Effectively protecting shrubs from snow damage centers on reducing the crevices and flat planes where snow collects and presses down on the limb and branch structures. This can be accomplished in one of two ways, either by lashing the branches of shrubs together or by wrapping and tying around the perimeter of the shrub. Each method reduces the surface area available on which the damaging snow can collect and is a matter of preference.

Protect the main crotch points of your shrub, where two or more of the shrub limbs meet, by tying them together to prevent snow from building up and pressing them down and apart, possibly breaking or cracking the limbs at the crotch juncture. Place the tie roughly a third to half of the way above the crotch, lacing it around the outside of the main limbs and drawing the twine or rope snug and tying it off to keep the branches together and the tie in place.

Wrap shrubs with one to two layers of burlap fabric or other breathable horticultural fabric and tie snugly with twine or rope around the exterior of the shrub. This will prevent snow and ice from resting in between the branches and pressing them down. This can be particularly helpful for use on evergreen topiary or hedging with a defined shape that will not be able to recover easily from structural limb damage.

Put all snow protection measures in place before the first heavy snowfall in late fall or winter and remove them immediately after the last significant snow has passed in early to mid-spring or late spring in far Northern climates.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Soft, flexible thick twine or rope
  • Burlap or breathable garden fabric
  • Scissors or shears

Tip

  • When tying your shrub's branches together you want to draw them gently and slowly inwards but not so tightly that you over-strain or snap the branches. Shrubs with an upright or vertical branching structure can be tied together more snugly and easily than those with a horizontal or spreading branch form.

Warning

  • Never be tempted to wrap your shrubs in impermeable materials like plastic sheeting. While the snow may fall right off the slick plastic, the shrub will suffer from lack of light and proper fresh air flow, possibly breeding insect activity and disease.