snow problems with an Arborvitae

Asked February 18, 2014, 1:44 PM EST

We have a 20ish foot, 17 year old Arborvitae that was knocked onto an adjacent bush from the recent snows. There are 3 main vertical trunks. I'm tempted to just cut 10 feet off the top of each of them so I can stand it back up. Does this have a chance of working? if not, do you have any suggestions? Thanks

Montgomery County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Hello and thanks for using the Ask an Expert System.

There are several options for dealing with your arborvitae. You could try tying the three branches together, and tying them to a nearby structure (your house?) This may be impractical because of the large size of your tree. If you can tie up the branches they may eventually develop enough strength to stand on their own. However, an arborvitae with more than one stem tends to splay out in heavy snow falls, and may develop the same problem in next winter.
You can trim the branches back to where they are not bent. This will probably result in a plant that is misshapen, and one that will develop more than one leader and will continue to be susceptible to snow damage. It is worth a try if you cannot support the original branches.
Your best option may be to replace the tree with a new one. If you do select to replace the tree with another Arborvitae, select a plant with a single leader. You should check the plant each winter to be sure that you do not have more leaders developing. Any competing leaders can be trimmed out as the plant grows. A single leader tree will be more stable and less likely to bend under the weight of snow.

If you want more information I recommend that you contact the Montgomery County Penn State Extension Office. You will find their contact information at http://extension.psu.edu/montgomery

I wish you the best with your tree. Snow damage has been a real problem for many Pennsylvanians.