Snow – should it stay or should it go?

It’s snowing here in Seattle – always a fun event, especially when we’re expecting up to 10 or more inches. I know…many of you laugh at our “big” snow, but the hilliness of Seattle makes driving in snow an adventure. (In fact, I’m supposed to be flying out tomorrow for a Connecticut presentation, and my flight’s already been cancelled and rebooked. Sigh.)

But what about the plants? This time of year people often ask whether they should leave the snow on their trees and shrubs. I covered this in December 2010 (and in a podcast in December 2011), but now I’ve come up with easily memorized advice:

If it’s light, leave it – if it’s heavy, heave it.

Light snow helps insulate trees and shrubs from winter dehydration, but heavy snow can permanently bend or worse, break, tree and shrub branches. Use a broom or rake to knock heavy snow off branches.

Bending is bad…

…but breaking is worse.

Published by

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:

3 thoughts on “Snow – should it stay or should it go?”

  1. Linda–

    I feel for you. We had only a couple of inches here in Portland, but it was so wet and heavy that almost all the evergreen trees and shrubs in our garden were bent double–not a pretty sight. And I learned one painful lesson: If you have a loquat covered with snow, DO NOT TOUCH IT! The branches are unbelievably brittle, and you will only do more damage if you try to knock the snow off.

  2. I thought about knocking the snow off my shrubs, but by the time I got out there, the rain had already done most of the work.

    In Raymond, we have had cold icy rain for over 24 hours now. Which means we also have about 6 inches of slush. Ugh!

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