How the Weather Is Affecting Your Trees in Alberta

Reading time: 7 minutes

Have you ever looked at your trees and wondered how they withstand our wild weather? One day, it's sunny and warm, and the next, Jack Frost is nipping at our noses – and at our trees!

Well, you're not alone in your curiosity. Alberta's unique climate poses a particular set of challenges for your trees.

Snow Covered Street
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Challenges for Trees in Alberta's Weather

1. The Big Freeze

Alberta winters are famous (or infamous, depending on how you feel about snow and ice) for their cold temperatures. We're talking about mercury levels that can plummet way below freezing. Remember January 13 of this year, when Edmonton witnessed a new record low temperature at the Edmonton International Airport of -45.9C, beating its previous record of 39.4C in 1969.

The deep freeze of winter can be harsh on trees. Their branches can become brittle, and the roots may struggle in the frozen ground.

2. Hello Sunshine, Hello Warmth

Then, just when we think we can't handle another snowflake, along come the warm spells. These sudden temperature shifts, especially during late winter and early spring, can be surprising.

The rapid thaw and refreeze cycles can cause what's known as 'frost heaving.' This phenomenon can disturb the roots and stress the trees.

Backyard Grass Sunset
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3. The Dry Spell

Summers in Alberta can get quite dry. While we all enjoy the sunny days perfect for BBQs, beaching, and outdoor fun, this lack of moisture can stress our trees.

During the dry summer months, trees can experience drought stress. Imagine how thirsty you'd feel on a hot, sunny day without a water bottle – that's your tree at the peak of summer.

Spotting Common Tree Issues in Alberta's Weather

Identifying a tree struggling due to weather conditions is not always easy. Here are some common issues trees in Alberta encounter:

Breaking and Snapping

When the temperature drops faster than a hot potato, the water inside tree branches can freeze. This causes the wood to become brittle and prone to breaking.

If branches snap when you put a little pressure on them, that shows frost damage.

Frost Crack

Some trees experience what's called 'frost crack.' Mike Leung, Arboriculture Strategy and Growth Leader at Green Drop Trees, further explains, “The bark expands rapidly during warm, sunny daytime periods and contracts sharply after a sudden drop in temperature at sunset, resulting in vertical splits in the trunk.”

Keep an eye out for cracks or splits in the trunk. Think of cracks like wrinkles, showing the stress of extreme cold. If you see them, it's your tree crying out for a bit of TLC.

Wilting Leaves

As the summer heat ramps up and rainfall takes a vacation, trees can experience drought stress. This often shows up as wilting or discolored leaves.

Wilting, yellowing, or browning of leaves is your trees' way of saying they are 'thirsty.' It’s time to take action.

Slowed Growth

Lack of water or nutrients can also slow down a tree's growth. As the growth of new leaves comes to a halt, the canopy starts thinning.

If you notice that your tree looks a little bare, you want to think about watering or fertilizing it.

Root Disturbance

The back-and-forth of freezing and thawing ground can disrupt the roots. It’s hard to observe unless you're looking out for it, so keep your eyes open during the onset of Spring and Fall.

If the soil around the tree looks wavy and uneven, it indicates root disturbance from the freeze-thaw cycles.

Bud and Flower Damage

The unpredictable spring weather can also damage new buds and blossoms for flowering trees. Keep an eye on your trees; if they look beaten up, you’ll know that the weather is at play.

Preventive Measures for Your Trees

Now, let's roll up our sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty of protecting our trees from the weather.

Green Drop Workers Trees


Mulching helps regulate soil temperature and retain moisture. But remember, over-mulching can be detrimental to your trees. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk – trees don't like tight collars.

Go for organic mulch like wood chips or bark. You want to give your trees some breathing space.


Pruning should be done during the dormant season – late fall or early winter. Avoid over-pruning. You're aiming for a natural look, not a tree that looks like it just got a boot camp buzz cut. And if you're unsure, that's where Green Drop's pruning experts come in.


Deep watering is critical during dry spells. A good soak now and then is better than a little sprinkle every day. At the height of summer, water your trees early in the morning or late in the evening to minimise evaporation.

Wrapping Young Trees

For young trees, consider wrapping their trunks in the winter. The young tree's bark is susceptible to sunscald and frost damage during harsh Alberta winters. Use a commercial tree wrap or burlap to wrap the trunk from the base to the first branches. This creates a barrier against fluctuating temperatures and harsh conditions.

Tips for Long-term Tree Care in Alberta

Trees require attention and care. Long-term tree care isn't just about reacting to problems but preventative maintenance.

Here are some tips for keeping your trees healthy year after year.

Seasonal Awareness

  • Spring Prep. As the snow melts, it's time for a health check. Clear away any debris around the tree, inspect for any winter damage, and start planning your watering and fertilizing schedule.
  • Summer Vigilance. During the dry months, consistent deep watering is crucial. Mulching helps retain moisture and regulate soil temperature, protecting those vital roots.
  • Fall Care. This is an excellent time for pruning – removing dead or diseased branches before the winter sets in. It's also the perfect season to plant new trees, giving them time to establish roots.
  • Winter Protection. Don’t forget to wrap young trees and ensure they're well-mulched before the frost hits. It’s like tucking them in for a long winter nap.

Regular Health Checks

  • Periodic Inspections. Regularly inspect your trees for signs of stress, disease, or pests. Early detection means easier management.
  • Soil Health. Good soil equals healthy trees. Consider getting your soil tested and amend it as needed to provide the best nutrients for your trees.

The Annual Check-up

Just like we need our regular health check-ups, so do our trees. An annual inspection by our arborists can spot potential issues and guide care. This is especially crucial for older or larger trees, which can become hazards if not properly maintained.

Green Drop Tree Check

When to Call in Experts

We understand that many of you might love getting your hands dirty while caring for your trees. Yet, sometimes, the situation calls for the cavalry – that's when it's time to call in the professionals.

Knowing when to seek help can save you time, effort, and even your beloved tree.

Major Breaks or Splits

If you notice significant damage, like large broken branches or deep splits in the trunk, it's time to call in the experts. These issues can pose safety risks and require professional assessment and care.

Disease and Pest Infestations

Spotting weird growths, excessive sap oozing, or signs of pest infestations? These are often beyond the scope of DIY care. Arborists are like tree doctors – they diagnose and treat your tree's ailments with precision and expertise.

Technical Pruning

Pruning large trees or those close to power lines isn't just challenging; it's dangerous.

Tree Removal

Sometimes, a tree needs to be removed due to damage, disease, or safety concerns. This is definitely a job for the pros.

Choosing and Planting New Trees

If you're considering adding new trees to your landscape, professional advice can be invaluable. Green Drop’s experts can help you choose the tree species suitable for Alberta's climate and your specific yard conditions.

Green Drop Workers Raking

Reliable Tree Experts in Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer, AB

Remember, while a lot can be accomplished with some elbow grease and determination, some tasks are best left to the experts. Green Drop’s team of ISA-certified arborists isn't just equipped with the knowledge and tools; we’re also passionate about trees and their well-being.

So, if you're facing a tree challenge that seems too daunting, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We’re in Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer. Not a resident of Alberta? No problem! We also have arborists in Regina, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg.

You can easily book our services right here and ensure your trees receive the professional care they deserve.

Schedule Your Free Tree Care Assessment