Minimize Salt Damage to Trees

Minimize Salt Damage to Trees

Across the country, more than 22 million tons of road salt is used every year for road safety. While road salt can help keep the roads safe during icy weather, it can have detrimental effects on trees and landscape plants. Even worse, symptoms from this winter may not appear until late summer or even years later. Not only can salt damage foliage, it can stunt tree growth and in severe cases, can lead to death.

“Salt deposits migrate to the stems, buds and roots of trees,” explains Tchukki Andersen, BCMA, CTSP, staff arborist with TCIA. “This causes disfigured foliage, stunted growth and severe decline in tree health. Salt runoff washes from pavement into the ground, increasing salt levels in the soil.”

The Tree Care Industry Association offers the following suggestions to prevent tree damage:

  • Avoid use of de-icing salt unless necessary.
  • Mix salt with abrasives such as sand, cinders and ash.
  • Use alternative de-icing salts such as calcium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate.
  • Improve drainage of soils.
  • Add organic matter such as activated charcoal or gypsum, and thoroughly leach salt residues from the soil.
  • Erect barriers between pavement and plants.
  • Plant trees in locations away from any type of salt spray.
  • Plant salt-resistant trees in areas where high salt spray is inevitable, i.e. near walkways, driveways or roads.
  • Provide adequate irrigation and mulching to reduce water loss.
  • Prune properly and add fertilizers to correct nutrient deficiency as indicated in spring soil testing.
  • Control tree damaging diseases and pest infestations.

Source: De-icing Salt Can Harm Landscape Plants Tree Care Industry Association