Storm Damaged Plants

This time of year, storms can be bad. We have had quite a few storm systems move through the area over the past few weeks. Some of these storms included high winds, hail, and even tornadoes. Unfortunately, when storms are severe they cause a lot of damage to our plants. This damage can’t be fixed once it has happened, but we can do things to help plants survive after storms.

Tree and Shrub Damage

If heavy winds come and break branches, remove the damaged branches with a good pruning cut to allow the plant to seal up the wound. If the storm broke the top out of the tree, it would be a good idea to get a Certified Arborist in to look at the damage to determine if the tree can be salvaged.

Hail can cause damage to the leaves and bark of trees. If the leaves on your tree look ragged and ripped due to hail, it is mostly aesthetic damage. The leaves are still on the tree and able to produce sugars through photosynthesis for the tree, so it isn’t as damaging as it looks. Damage to the bark on the trunk and branches can be more problematic, unfortunately there is nothing that can fix this but time. You will always have wounds where hail hit the tree, but over time the tree should recover and seal these wounds. If there are a lot of large hail wounds to a small tree, it might be the demise, but give it time to see if it pulls through.

Pruning Trees

Maintaining properly pruned trees and shrubs year-round can help reduce damage from storms. A bad branch can be properly removed prior to the storm to eliminate that branch being ripped off the tree in a storm. Late spring, or late May through early June is a great time to prune most trees. Don’t prune oaks in summer to avoid oak wilt.

Make good pruning cuts by cutting just outside of the bark ridge or bark collar. Don’t treat wounds with anything after pruning. Only cut off branches that are less than one-half the diameter of the main trunk and don’t remove more than one-third of the canopy in one growing season.

Perennial Plant Damage

Perennials can see a lot of damage after storms too. Hostas can really show damage from hail. Remove severely hail damaged leaves but leave as much green tissue as possible to help with plant recovery. If only a few leaves have holes in them from hail, remove those to stop diseases from entering through these wounds. Perennials should regrow but need some leaves for that to happen. Give them time to recover.

General Plant Care after Hail

Avoid excessive leaf removal where you can. You can prune out the heavily damaged leaves and stems, but leave as much as you can to help the plant recover. Also, do NOT fertilize your plants until they have fully recovered from the storm damage. Fertilizing stressed plants will further stress them. Keep plants mulched properly, 2-3 inches is the recommended depth of wood chip mulches. Also, be sure to keep plants properly irrigated. Use a screwdriver to help determine the need for irrigation.

All plants damaged by hail or strong winds that have open wounds are now more susceptible to disease issues. Keep an eye out as plant diseases start and remove infected leaves or branches as soon as possible when they show up. Use fungicides as necessary just as new diseases begin.

If you have any further questions please contact Nicole Stoner at (402) 223-1384, nstoner2@unl.edu, visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu, or like my facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture and follow me on twitter @Nikki_Stoner 

Nicole Stoner
Extension Educator
Gage County
June 2024