Winter Stress on Trees and Shrubs

Winter stress on trees and shrubs in the St. Louis area can cause a number of problems in our home landscapes.  Snow and ice damage, salt injury, and general desiccation can all wreak havoc on our plants.  What causes the problem and what can we do about it?

Snow and Ice Damage

Snow and ice can be a significant problem on trees and shrubs, especially evergreens like pines and arborvitae.  The excess weight that accumulates on the limbs can cause them to break. Proper pruning to eliminate dead and weakened branches is your best course of action.  Occasionally it may be necessary to add cables or braces to further protect the limbs from snow and ice damage.

Salt Injury

Trees and shrubs along the side of driveways and streets are also likely to suffer from road salt injury.  The best course of action is to choose salt tolerant plants such as Junipers, Norway Maples, Honey Locust, and Buckthorn for these locations.  In addition, apply mulch in the fall and be sure keep these plants irrigated both in late fall and early spring.

Winter stress on trees and shrubs

Arborvitae browning

Wind damage

Perhaps our biggest source of winter stress on trees and shrubs in St. Louis is wind damage.  The high winds simply cause our evergreens to dry out and turn brown. Arborvitae, boxwood, and cypress all show some degree of stress during the winter.  Occasionally, the damage can be fatal.  Again, the best plan of action of avoid wind damage is to put the right plant in the right place.  Mulching is important, as well as watering adequately in late fall and even during the winter if necessary.

Winter stress on trees and shrubs

Boxwood shrub with winter stress


Winter is a great time for pruning deciduous trees in the St. Louis area.  The trees are dormant and the arborist is able to get a better view of the limb structure and to spot any potential damaged or diseased limbs.

If you are concerned about winter stress on trees and shrubs, please contact Gamma Tree Experts to have your trees evaluated by one of our ISA Certified Arborists.

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