For many regions of the country, this has been a tough winter on shrubs. Numerous ice and snow storms have caused broken branches and limbs. Cold temperatures and drying winds have caused dieback on evergreen shrubs. And the use of road and walkway salts has caused root damage in plants.

Now that the weather is warming, it’s a good time to assess the damage and do some repairs. Here are some ideas to help your shrubs recover:

Broken Limbs: Take a look at broken and split branches to see the severity of the damage. If main branches are split or broken and their removal will deform the plant, you might consider some drastic pruning or even replacing the shrub. Many shrubs, such as lilacs, forsythia, and spirea, can be pruned almost to the ground and will recover. It may take a few years for them to flower again, but you can prune the shrub into the size and shape that look good in your yard. For smaller branches, prune them back to a side branch and remove other branches as needed to balance the shape of the shrub.

Evergreen Dieback: Evergreens, such as cypress and rhododendron, may have suffered winter damage from the cold, drying winds as well. Wait until spring is underway before you decide the shrub has died or has severe damage. Sometimes an evergreen will outgrow the damage or bounce back even if you think it’s dead. Once it’s clear where the damage is, shear evergreens, trying not to cut into the old wood, and prune back broadleaf evergreens to a side branch. Sometimes rhododendrons will drop their leaves, but the branches will survive to leaf out again.
Salt Damage: Salt damage on shrubs is harder to diagnose. Check shrubs near walkways or the road, where the damage is most likely to occur. If limbs seem to be declining all around the shrub, water the soil around the plant well to flush out any salt. Hopefully this will remedy the situation.