Repair winter storm-damaged trees and shrubs promptly for best results

Last Updated: 
March 22, 2012

EUGENE, Ore. – If recent storms damaged trees or shrubs in your yard, you may need to provide "first aid" promptly.

The earlier you care for injured plants, the better chance they have of recovering, advises Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Most of the damage is likely to be minor, involving small limbs that break or crack, and often are already dead. However, high winds or wet, heavy snow can cause woody trees and shrub branches to break. Heavy snows have already caused major damage to hazelnut trees on the McKenzie River, Penhallegon said.

He advises cutting the damaged twigs and limbs back to the nearest strong, healthy wood or bud. When pruning back to healthy wood, make the pruning cut nearly flush with the nearest side limb. Cut to the swollen area called the "collar." Do not leave a stub or snag.     

"Remove fractured or splintered wood," Penhallegon said. "These surfaces are inviting places for infection or rot to take hold."

If your tree or shrub limbs are bent but not cracked, don't cut off the entire limb immediately. Instead, remove extra weight from the limb by first cutting off smaller expendable side limbs. Then leave it alone. With time, the limb may straighten out.

"Or, if impatience gets the best of you, prop up the branch with wood," Penhallegon said. "Over time you can reposition it near to where it is supposed to be." Move the branch upward about six inches every week until the branch returns to its normal position.

A broken major limb should be sawed back to the trunk or major side limb. Make the cut as clean as possible to help prevent rot diseases from becoming established in the area of the cut. Do not apply coatings to the cut.

Some trees may be damaged beyond repair or require more work than most homeowners are willing to do. Young, fast-growing trees have the best chance to recover from major damage. Trees less likely to recover from significant damage have shown little re-growth each year, have been damaged before or are old with scraggly growth.

In the early spring, apply nitrogen fertilizer around the drip line area of recovering trees and shrubs to encourage vigorous growth.

Author: Judy Scott