Image of lone tree in snowy countrysideWinter can be tough on our gardens. And although we often focus on protecting delicate flowers and shrubs from frost and wind, it’s important to give equal consideration to our garden trees as well. Read on to understand how the winter months can affect your trees and learn what you can do about it.

How Can Trees be Damaged During Winter?

Wind damage

Fallen tree

Winter winds and rain meant an unhappy ending for this tree

Strong winds worry anyone with large trees in their garden. Branches may get broken or damaged – or worse still the entire tree may uproot, causing damage and injury where it falls. Certain conditions make uprooting more likely; old or unstable trees with damaged roots, and trees in waterlogged soil are most likely to suffer uprooting in strong winds, rather than trees with good root systems in a well-drained soil.

Heavy Rain

Heavy rain can be bad news for your trees. Water-saturated soils can make trees unstable; bad news if heavy winds are forecast – most uprooted trees occur due to a combination of waterlogged soil and heavy winds. Flooding will not affect dormant trees, but starves roots of oxygen when they enter active growth, and may result in your tree dying. Heavy rain can also wash vital nutrients from the soil, resulting in a poor condition tree next season.


As pretty as a snow-covered tree can look, a heavy snowfall can spell disaster for our trees. The weight of snow on branches, especially where needles and leaves catch the snow, can be so heavy that branches and boughs crack and break.


A sudden sharp frost will damage trees that were previously unaccustomed to the cold, perhaps as a result of a mild winter to that point. It takes only a light frost to damage delicate flowers in early flowering trees and bushes such as camellias and magnolias. Very hard frosts, especially if following a wet spell, can affect more than just buds and flowers. Roots are less hardy than the plant above the ground and can be killed or seriously damaged by very low temperatures. This is especially an issue for shallow rooted trees and those in pots. The damage won’t be evident until spring, when the tree fails to grow or looks very sickly.

Animal Damage

During very cold winters when food is scarce, you may find that the local wildlife takes a shine to your tree. Mice, rabbits and deer are common culprits and you may notice that tree bark has been nibbled away in places. This can expose the tree to infection, and affect its ability to feed itself.

Salt Damage

Do you have trees adjacent to busy roads that are gritted during cold weather? Be aware of damage from salt splashes

on your trees, or resulting from salt running off roads and being taken up by the roots. The damage can be quite diverse and may be mistaken for a disease or infection. Bud failure, browning leaves and blossoms appearing only on the side of the tree furthest from the road are all consequences of salt damage. Recent efforts by local councils mean that this is less of an issue than in the past, but take care when applying salt on your own drive as there are consequences for the plants in your garden.

How Can I Protect My Tree in Winter?

There are many things you can do to protect your tree during winter months.

Wrap it up

Image of Tree Surgeons removing a wind damaged tree

The Brackendale boys getting to work with a storm damaged tree

Protect roots from frost by applying mulch to roots, and protect potted trees with bubble wrap around the pots. Even better, move potted trees to sheltered locations in your garden.

Wrap cloth or strong plastic around the base of trees that are being targeted by wildlife for a winter snack. Or erect a fence around the tree.

If you hear of a late frost, then do what you can to protect camellias and magnolia blooms by covering with gardening fleece or cloth. Whilst not practical for large specimens, you may be able to protect smaller, less established trees.

Plan for Winter

Avoid a late-season feeding of nitrogen-rich fertilisers as they create soft growth which is easily damaged by cold weather. Do what you can to improve soil drainage , to help  prevent the soil becoming saturated.

Shake it

Where practical, shake or knock the snow off your trees to reduce the weight on the branches and prevent cracks and snaps.

Who Can Help me Care for My Tree in Winter?

A qualified tree surgeon is well placed to advise on how to care for your tree in winter. Your tree surgeon will be able to spot trees which may suffer in strong winds, and can check their roots to understand how vulnerable they are to uprooting in strong winds.

Call Brackendale Tree Care now for advice on how to prevent damage to your trees this winter, and to understand if your tree is likely to suffer at the hands of the weather this winter.