Snow and Ice on Tree Limbs

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Have your small trees and shrubs recently lost limbs due to snow or ice? I have a butterfly bush that lost quite a few limbs due to the ice a couple weeks back. When a limb breaks off, it usually leaves a jagged edge. These are perfect sites for disease organisms to find a foothold in the plant and begin to infect the wood possibly working their way into the main trunk or stem. To help avoid this, make a smooth cut just outside of the branch collar or swollen area at the base of the branch where it connects to the next largest branch. The smooth cut will heal quicker and leave little opportunity for diseases to attack the plant. When cut just outside of the branch collar, the plant has an easier time growing over and walling off the missing limb.

Sometimes a larger branch won’t make a clean break and it’s left hanging on by a strip of bark. When this happens, cut the bark with a smooth cut. If it has been a couple of days since the break, it’s not likely that the bark will heal back onto the plant. It’s better to remove the bark to where it’s torn and allow the plant to heal. Make the smooth cut where the branch broke, knowing the bark that peeled off will leave a scar.

Roses should also be pruned now. It’s a scary thing to prune a rose bush. This is one of the plants where the majority of the top is removed so new canes will come up from the crown of the plant. The older canes which should be removed will be  darker brown or gray and may have some bark ridges near the base of the plant. Several of these should be removed down to an inch or two from the crown of the plant. How many should be removed will be determined by the type of rose bush and how long it has been since it was last pruned. A hybrid tea rose should be left with 3 to 5 main canes, while a knockout rose will do better with 7 to 9 canes remaining. The remaining stems will need to be cut to about 12 to 18 inches in height.