Is Ice Worse than Snow for Trees and Shrubs?

Ice on Trees and Shrubs

What’s worse for trees and shrubs? Ice or snow? Think of it this way: snow can be gentle, while ice can be harsh. That about sums it up.

During the winter in New Jersey and elsewhere, conditions can range from temperate to downright freezing cold. When the thermometer reads below zero, you can bet your trees and shrubs are experiencing some shock and stress.

How Ice Storms Affect Trees and Shrubs

When ice storms come through town, what happens is this: a cold rain falls down on trees and shrubs. The temperature lowers. Then, that rain freezes as ice, sticking to the bark and branches. Ice is heavier than snow. Moreover, when ice is particularly heavy, guess what happens? Small branches break because they’re coated with heavy ice. All it takes is an ice coating of, say, a fraction of an inch, to do damage. Add to that a strong, mighty wind, and your trees and shrubs could end up losing a lot of branches and such.

For your knowledge, a branch is more likely to snap from ice if it’s already weak, isn’t growing upright, has a sharp angle, or if it has a layer of bark trapped in its joint. Furthermore, you can tell if you have a weak tree if it doesn’t have a single central stem (aka a “leader”) and/or its branching system is atypical.

To help protect your trees from ice damage, it’s best to prune them properly when they’re young, so they can grow up to be strong. For older trees that haven’t been attended to, a professional intervention might be needed to help correct imperfections. Someone who works with trees daily is likely to be able to tell you if a tree is diseased, weak, or stressed, and then offer some solutions to remedy problems.

As for shrubs, ice can definitely weigh them down, more so than snow. It’s best to leave them alone, letting the ice melt as the temperature rises.

If you’re thinking of getting some new trees for your property in New Jersey, and you’d like some helpful advice on what to buy and what not to buy, call Big Foot Tree Service. Ask about the type of trees that are especially hardy and can withstand harsh New Jersey winters. Contact Big Foot Tree Service at 973-885-8000.