6 Tips to Prepare Apartment Landscapes for Severe Spring Weather

mage of Palm Trees in a Hurricane


Spring is a time to revitalize landscapes, but a downfall is severe weather. Powerful storms with high wind, hail, and heavy rain – even tornadoes and hurricanes – can wipe out or significantly damage an apartment landscape that has taken months or years to groom.

The recent outbreak of tornadoes in the Midwest and South serve as a reminder that landscapes are especially vulnerable this time of year. The difference between minimizing damage and sustaining a total loss to trees, beds and gardens may be how well the property prepares for the storm season, especially those communities along the coast that are vulnerable to hurricanes.

Proper preparation is essential, as storms will continue to race across the U.S. in the coming weeks as we move toward summer and the start of hurricane season in June.

Here are six tips to help your landscape survive severe weather and avoid damage to structures:

Strengthen Trees and Plants with Pruning and Maintenance

Weakened trees, shrubs and plants are most likely to be victims in the landscape during high winds, tornadoes and hurricanes. Proper pruning and maintenance enables trees young and old to stand up to heavy guests as weather systems move through the area.

Low-hanging branches should be pruned, and dead or weak limbs removed. Trees that have signs of fungus in the form of mushrooms likely have heart rot or decay and need immediate attention.

Also, get rid of unstable trees or tree limbs that hang over structures. A tree or bush with a consistent uniform shape is a sign of strength.

Give Plants and Bushes a Better Latch Chance

A new plant or tree that is properly “set” into the landscape has a greater chance of latching onto the earth and holding tight during a storm. When planting, the roots at the bottom of the root ball should be exposed slightly so they can more rapidly begin growing into the soil.

It’s best to use a mix of native soil and peat moss or potting mix when planting. Keep about 60 percent of the soil that comes out of the hole, and fill around the root ball with commercially prepared peat moss or potting mix. Be sure to remove large rocks.

Stake Young Trees and Plants to Help Them Survive High Winds

New trees and plants are more prone to snap in high winds, even if a good rooting system is already under way. Staking to allow trees to bend but not break increases the chances that they will survive.

Stake with straps or dowels, using two or three as necessary. Before staking, it’s best to determine the direction of the prevailing wind and set the stakes opposite of each other about two feet away. For example, if winds are out of the south, place the stakes on the east and west sides.

Also, a tree or plant that is staked too firmly will be more rigid and inflexible, causing it to snap during wind gusts.

Plan Your Apartment Landscape with Possible Storm Damage in Mind

Trees that are planted too close to structures and near utility lines are a recipe for disaster. A tree that will be large at maturity should be planted far enough away from clubhouses, offices, residences and other buildings so that if it falls structural damage will be minimized.

Planting smaller trees and bushes – like hollies and crape myrtles – closer to structures reduces the opportunity for damaged windows, awnings and roofs. Maintaining these plants so they don’t grow too tall is a good idea as well.

Plant Wind-Resistant Trees and Bushes

Since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the University of Florida has done extensive research on what types of trees can better withstand gale-force winds and hurricanes. Among a group of palms, dicots and conifers with the highest wind resistance are crape myrtles, southern magnolias, live oaks, bald cypress, certain hollies and sand live oaks.

The study suggests avoiding most fruit trees, pines, southern red cedars, laurel oaks and sycamore trees.

Create Safety Net by Planting in Numbers

When possible, plant trees in groups to increase wind resistance and enhance their ability to survive. Essentially, the cluster will provide a safety net for trees and plants within.

Even with applying the best landscape techniques, trees and plants are sometimes no match for Mother Nature. Local soil conditions, the age of trees and structure and health largely play in the ability for survival.

Taking a strategic approach to planting and maintaining the landscape can help minimize damage from some severe storms. Is your apartment’s landscape ready for the severe weather season?


(Image source: Shutterstock)



President, Earthworks

author photo two

Chris Lee is President of Dallas, Texas-based Earthworks, which specializes in multifamily housing landscaping. He is a contributing author to Landscape Management magazine, licensed irrigation specialist and a Toro Intellisense certified technician. Chris studied business at the University of Arkansas from 1990-94 and horticulture and landscape design at Tarrant County College from 1999-01. He has been employed at Earthworks since 1998.

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