The Positives and Negatives Of Snow On Garden Plants

There is something about freshly fallen snow that is breathtaking and inspiring. It is calming. Poets have often written about the beauty of snow.

There’s a patch of old snow in a corner
That I should have guessed
Was a blow-away paper the rain
Had brought to rest.

It is speckled with grime as if
Small print overspread it,
The news of a day I’ve forgotten —
If I ever read it.

– Robert Frost

But of course, as beautiful as it is, snow can be both beneficial and potentially damaging to garden plants.

The Benefits Of Snow To Garden Plants

A blanket of snow can act as an insulator to plant roots. Even when it is bitterly cold, snow can keep the roots of sensitive plants from becoming damaged. The soil temperature with a good blanket of snow on it can stay at 32 degrees, even when the air temperature is much lower. This is very tolerable for most temperate plants. Because of the consistent temperatures, the ground does not heave and thaw, which can cause some plants to become dislodged.

Snow also provides a lot of moisture to plants. If there is a slow warm up, this water is available for a long period of time and is very manageable for plants to take up. Much of the water soaks into the underground aquifer and becomes available later in the season.

The Potential Hazards Of Snow To Garden Plants

Too much snow, like most things, can be a bad thing.

A heavy layer of snow on evergreen shrubs can bend or even break limbs. I some cases, this can cause valuable landscape plants like Boxwoods and Arborvitaes to be out of shape for many seasons to come. To prevent this, gently brush off the snow layer b hand or by using a broom. This does not need to be done for light layers of snow. Be sure to cleanly prune any branches that break.

Another snow hazard is actually caused by humans. If using an ice melting material, be sure to use one that is safe for plants (and pets for that matter). Many salts can cause root and foliage burn to plants and could cause irreparable damage. For more on ice melt products, please see our blog post Preventing Salt Damage To Landscape Plants And Lawns.

Generally speaking,  the benefits of snow, whether aesthetically or horticulturally speaking, far outweigh the negatives so be sure to enjoy it.

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