How to Prune Shrubs and Bushes After Storm Damage


Severe weather, including high winds, snow and ice, can damage shrubs and bushes, altering your carefully planned landscape. Often the damage is cosmetic only, and selective pruning and time will bring the shrub back. Immediate attention is required to resolve hazardous situations, but cosmetic pruning is best left until the shrub has a chance to recover.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubbing alcohol or sanitizing wipe
  • Cloth or paper towel
  • Hand saw
  • Loppers
  • Sharp knife
  • Contact your power company or a tree professional to deal with branches hanging near or over utility or power lines. This is a hazardous situation that requires the services of a trained professional.

  • Clean your pruning tools, wiping them down with rubbing alcohol or a sanitizing wipe between cuts.

  • Remove loose, broken and damaged branches immediately, cutting back to healthy wood. Make cuts just beyond the branch collar, a branch joint or leaf bud. Use loppers to remove branches with a diameter less than 1 1/2 inches and a handsaw to cut larger branches, using a 3-part cut. Saw up from below the branch first, approximately 8 to 12 inches from the branch collar, sawing until the blade binds. Make the second cut approximately 2 to 3 inches further down the branch, cutting from the top until the branch breaks or falls away. The third cut is to remove the stump. Saw completely through the branch just beyond the branch collar.

  • Remove loose or shredded bark from the shrub, being careful not to disturb healthy bark. Smooth the edges of dead or dying bark using a sharp knife. Pull or pry away bark that is not attached to the tree, exposing as little of the inner bark as necessary.

  • Inspect the shrub for dead branches. If in doubt, scratch the branch lightly with your fingernail or a knife. Live wood is green or white, dead wood is brown or black beneath the bark. Remove dead wood, making cuts beyond a node or bud and cutting back until live wood is encountered.

  • Watch the shrub for signs of recovery. Once new growth has appeared, evaluate the existing branches and trim or remove those that are not healthy. Resist the urge to prune the remaining branches too soon. The shrub may look unattractive, but a healthy shrub will recover. After ice or cold damage, it may take longer in the spring for new growth to appear, so be patient.

  • Prune away up to one third of the shrub each spring to restore it to a pleasing shape and rejuvenate it.

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