Lee County Extension
Hurricane Tree Survival Takes Some Effort

Damage to trees from Hurricane Charley may not appear for several months or several years. Shrubs and trees hit by future wind shear should be stood back upright and staked if necessary.

A small tree or shrub knocked downed or leaning badly often requires immediate care. Wind and/or flooding are probable causes. Flooding damage often occurs in hurricane-damaged landscapes when plant roots remain saturated for 3 days or more.

First, stand the tree upright. If a large portion of the root ball popped out of the soil, re-planting at the proper depth becomes particularly difficult.

Second, evaluate the root ball. Prune exposed roots. Reset the ball. If this still doesn’t allow re-planting to its original growing position, remove soil near the base of the ball or position exposed roots to grow down.

If the tree can’t be re-planted at its original depth, securely stake and re-mulch the tree. If you are unable to do immediately, place a layer of sphagnum moss over exposed parts of the root ball.

Third, place 3 INCHES of fine, organic mulch like shredded bark, recycled bark materials or pin needles over an enlarged area around the tree or shrub. Remove additional sod from around a tree.

Fourth, maintain the injured tree in a similar way as a newly planted tree or shrub. Water separately or irrigate the surface area above the root ball.. Keep staked for 6 months to a year. Depending on the tree species, establishing new roots outside the old root ball could take 3 months to one year. Wait several weeks before applying fertilizer at the minimum rate recommended by a soil test.

In areas where trees fell due to flooding, look at potential ways to improve drainage. Consider using only water tolerant plants in wetter areas like love oak, red mangrove, red bay or cabbage palms.

Another solution is planting trees and shrubs on raised soil beds or mounds. Shrubs planted on raised soil mounds often survive longer. In some situations, turning off the irrigation in areas of the yard prone to flooding will keep newly established trees and shrubs from being blown down.

Following a wind event, prune away ripped limbs to ensure proper healing. Wash leaves with fresh water in the canopy of plants affected by salt sprays. Also, consider fungicide applications for badly damaged palms. Lastly, expect to see sunburn on trees and under-story plants if significant leave loss occurs after a storm.

Choose these palms that showed high survivability following Hurricane Charley.

  • Cabbage Palm – Sabal palmetto
  • Chinese Fan Palm – Livistonia chinensis
  • Christmas Palm – Veitchia merrillii
  • Pygmy Date Palm – Phoenix roebelenii
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Related Resources

palms blowing in a hurricane

tree tipped over by a hurricane


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