many tree branches covered in snow

January 9, 2023 /
Christina Hester

Winter Tree Care Tips

Winter is a wonderful season to enjoy the beauty of trees. As the temperature continues to drop, proper tree care during the winter months is essential for the health and longevity of your trees. Cold weather can cause damage, so it’s important to take the necessary steps to protect them. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your trees stay healthy during the winter:

  1. It’s important not to overwater your trees.

Trees that are dormant don’t need to be watered as frequently as during the growing season. When there is little to no snow cover and little precipitation, plan on watering your trees one to two times per month until they begin leafing out in the spring. If the site is particularly windy, your trees may need more water. Water only when the temperature is above 40 degrees F and there is no snow or ice on the ground near your trees. Water early in the day, so the plants have time to absorb it before the temperature drops at night. Once the ground thaws in the spring, you can resume your regular watering schedule.

  1. Avoid piling mulch up against the trunk of your trees.

Cover the soil with a 3-inch to 5-inch layer of mulch starting a few inches from the base of the trunk and extending 2 or more feet from the tree in all directions (creating a circle around the tree). Use organic matter such as wood chips, with or without leaf matter. Say no to mulch volcanoes! Mulch should have a “donut” distribution, not a “volcano” shape. Mulch should be a few inches away from the base of the tree; too much moisture around the trunk can lead to decay.

  1. Perform structural pruning if needed.

Trees go into dormancy during winter making it the ideal time for you to prune. We recommend pruning trees while they are young to establish good structure and to prevent damage in the future, such as limb failure. Trees with good structure are more resistant to high winds, snow, ice, and other natural stressors.

There is a whole host of pruning videos on the how-to section of our website. These resources are a good place to start, but they are no replacement for the knowledge and expertise of an arborist. If you have a tree you’re worried about or you think a tree needs significant pruning, get in contact with one of our Certified Arborists so they can take a look.

  1. Remove invasive plants on or around your trees.

Anytime is a good time to remove invasive plants or vines growing on or around your trees, and winter is a perfect time to get tasks done you might normally not have time for in the spring. Plants like English ivy, wisteria, porcelain berry, and other vines take water and nutrients away from the tree. They can crowd, cover, and bend over branches, making branches vulnerable to breakage, blocking sunlight trees need, and generally weakening the tree’s overall health, making it more susceptible to opportunistic pests.

Pulling invasive plants, ivy, and other vines and weeds by hand is one of the best ways to remove them – being careful not to damage tree bark, and to wear gloves to protect your hands.

You can also get your hands dirty pulling invasives at our Community Conservation Event at Langdon Park on January 16, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. Come help care for trees in our community!

  1. Enjoy the beauty and architecture of your tree branch structure in the winter!

As the winter season continues, take the time to enjoy the beauty and architecture of your tree branches. Taking a few moments to marvel at the intricate structure of the branches, or to appreciate the way the light catches the snow-covered limbs, can be a truly rewarding experience. Make sure to bring a camera with you to capture the beauty of the structure, so you can look back on it fondly in the future.