Q. Some of my shrubs have bent down due to the snow the past few weeks. Will they recover?
Larry from Canfield
A. Yes, and no. Most plants will recover from some snow load accumulation. But some can be affected for the next growing season and even for years to come. Older plants can handle much of the snow we’ve had so far this winter because of their sturdy stem structure. Newly planted shrubs bend more easily and need some assistance with removing the snow load.
One commonly affected shrub is arborvitae. They are frequently damaged from snow and ice loads during our winters in the Valley. An expert from the University of Vermont says, “Taller shrubs can be wrapped with cord. Tie the cord to the base of a stem and then wind it around the shrub. The tied bundle of stems will help support one another.” This method of support will help reduce the impact of heavy loads on arborvitae.
For most plants, simply use a broom and gently sweep off the snow. Do not beat the shrub back and forth with the broom. You will do more harm than good. The quicker you can remove the snow, the better it will be for the plant. When it comes to ice hanging on the plant, removing it usually does more damage than good.
Branches that bend and are bent for long periods of time during the winter can result in breakage, but that can also damage the bark and cambium tissue (by which water and nutrients are transported within the plant). This can result in several issues with the plant during next year’s growing season.
Shrubs damaged by snow loads may need to be pruned to reduce further damage and to eventually strengthen the stems you leave on the shrub. Shrubs with multiple, upright stems like arborvitae can be pruned by removing one stem at a time (down to the trunk) to keep the plant looking good until other stems fill in bare spots and more pruning cuts can be made.
Eric Barrett is OSU Ext. educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office hot line at 330-533-5538 from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays to submit your questions.