Winter Tree Care Tips

By taking care of our city’s trees (both along streets and on private property), we’re helping increase GR’s tree canopy coverage and bring numerous health benefits to our neighborhoods!

Our trees might be dormant right now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t work for us to do to take care of them! Here’s what to watch for during the winter months to help your trees thrive.

WInter Trees

winter storm damage

If a branch is badly damaged and snapped by winter storms, it can be pruned off so that it heals quickly in the spring. If you haven’t taken our Neighborhood Forester class on pruning yet, reach out to us so we can help you prune safely.
Remember: trees younger than 18 months should ONLY be pruned when they have suffered damage.


We love winter decorations on trees! If you added lights or ornaments to an outdoor tree this year, be sure to remove everything before the leaves come out in the spring. Even a tied string left behind on a branch can act as a tourniquet and will be dangerous for the tree. This is called “girdling” and can eventually kill any part of the tree it’s tied around.

Frost Crack

Closer to the end of winter, rapid warming and cooling of thin-barked trees can cause the bark to split (“frost crack”). Tree wrap is a gauze-like material that can be put on trunks to prevent frost crack. Tree wrap can also provide a habitat for pests, though, so we only recommend using it on trees that are high-risk, like young red maples with a lot of southern sun exposure.

piles of snow

Try to avoid piling snow around trees when shoveling and plowing sidewalks, steps and parking lots. Salt from these hard surfaces mixes with the snow, and this combination can cause soil problems or even chemical burns to trees and other plants when it’s concentrated in piles. Be sure to only use the recommended amount of de-icer to help lower the risk.

salt & de-icers

When selecting new trees to plant along streets, our Urban Forestry team works hard to choose salt-tolerant species; but even the most tolerant tree won’t be happy with salt residue on its roots! There are a lot of different de-icers out there, and they don’t all work the same. Here’s a great article to help you break through the ice and choose the right one.

Here’s a chart to help you choose the right product

Type Cost Temperatures Harmful?
Sodium Chloride (Rock salt) $ 12*F and above Can be harmful to plants, cars, and pets even at recommended levels
Magnesium chloride $$ 5*F and above Pet friendly, safe when applied at 1-2lbs per 100 sq ft.
Calcium Chloride $$$ -25*F and above Safe when applied at recommended amount
Calcium Magnesium Acetate (MELT EB) $$$$ 20*F and above Safe when applied at recommended amount
Sawdust/coarse sand/cat litter $ Doesn’t melt ice, but provides traction Doesn’t cause harm


Whatever your skill level and tree’s age, we are committed to helping you and your trees along this journey, and look forward to getting to know you at projects throughout the year! Please reach out to us at info@friendsofgrparks.org if you have any questions.

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