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Selection and Pruning are Key to Avoiding Snow Damage

By Michelle Wach, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Horticulturist

Heavy spring and fall snows can cause a lot of damage to trees.  When Colorado gets a wet, heavy snow, it is a good idea to shake the snow off of tree limbs with a broom to prevent breakage.

Careful selection and proper pruning of deciduous trees can greatly reduce snow damage.   Because a tree is a valuable asset to your property, it is important to properly maintain and select only high quality trees.

Keep certain things in mind when selecting a tree for your yard.  A tree with a straight trunk and evenly spaced branches is stronger and more damage resistant. Avoid buying trees that have several branches originating from the same point on the trunk.   Areas like this will suffer from snow damage.  Look for trees with wide crotches of the primary branches from the main trunk.  If the crotch is narrow, the union of the branch to the trunk will be weaker.  A 90 degree angle of branch-to-trunk is ideal.

Growth rate is another important factor when choosing a tree.  Trees with medium to slow growth rates are typically stronger.  Faster growing trees tend to be more brittle.  Siberian (Chinese) elms, willows, soft or silver maples and some varieties of cottonwoods are considered fast growing.  Honeylocust, green ash and American linden have a moderate growth rate.  Bur oak, Norway maple and littleleaf linden are examples of slower growing trees.

Proper pruning of a tree also can help to prevent snow damage.  For more information see CSU Fact Sheet 7.207 and CSU Fact Sheet 7.210.

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010