Snow falling on cedars…not always a good thing

Seattle had its first snowfall last week – a mere 3-6″ – and the city shut down.  (Yes, those of you in the snowier parts of the midwest and east can laugh…but we’ve got hills.  That’s the main problem.)  It was unusally cold, so the snow that fell was the light, fluffy kind that I remember from our Buffalo years.

Every year someone writes to ask whether they should remove the snow from their trees and shrubs.  Here’s what I suggest:

1)  If it’s very cold and the snow is dry and light, I advise leaving the snow on.  It serves to insulate tissues from freeze damage.

2)  If the snow is wet and heavy (i.e. temperatures are not that cold), you should remove as much as possible.  The insulation isn’t necessary, and the weight load can permanently damage trees and shrubs.

This damage can’t be easily repaired; the only alternatives are to cut bent trunks and branches out entirely (no stub cuts!), or to tie them up.  Not being into plant bondage, I generally cut bent branches away.

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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and a Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - Books:

One thought on “Snow falling on cedars…not always a good thing”

  1. On page 485 of the 2nd edition of his classic arboriculture textbook, Richard Harris included a discussion of using narrow gauge wire and washers to protect multistemmed evergreens from the damage you’ve described.

    A couple of years ago, I took the liberty of describing this technique on my TV program. It can be viewed online at I also write about the technique on the following page of my website,

    I hope this will be helpful – and, keep up the great work!

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