Plants to Help with Winter Snow Drifting

Plants to Help with Winter Snow Drifting

hedge snow

Snows a-coming! For most of the country, winter is around the corner! For a few places … it’s already here. One of our least favorite wintertime chores is shoveling snow!

You get that driveway and sidewalk cleaned off just for the wind to blow all that snow right back. Or worse, pile the snow against your home, HVAC unit, or against your garage door!

Entire roads can close down due to drifting snow, and cause public safety issues and problems with visibility! You could put up long snow fences but those are rarely good for curb appeal. So why plant a strategically placed hedge to reduce drifting snow and help keep your walkways clear?

A properly placed hedge can do wonders for you and your landscape all year long! But only the strongest limbs can handle wind and snow-load in areas of the US where heavy wet snow or lots of drifting snow is common during the winter months.

shovel snow hedges

Shrubs and shrubby trees with dense branches that extend down to the ground level to catch and hold not just snow but also pesky leaves from that neighbor's tree that keep blowing into your yard! You’ll also slow wind in areas that can carry dust, tumbleweeds and blowing weed seeds, drift from farmers' fields, and even catch snow for moisture management and depleted groundwater situations.

Using shrubs as living snow fencing is easy! Natural groupings of mixed plants make a much better presentation than simply planting in straight rows.

These barrier plantings should be positioned perpendicular or as close to perpendicular as possible to the prevailing winds (At right angles to the wind in winter.).

They don’t catch the snow and end up buried, but instead, these barrier plantings collect the snow behind the fence, interrupt air currents, and cause blowing snow to be deposited in front of the fence on the leeward side.

green snow hedge

  • A low hedge or row of columnar plants along your driveway
  • A taller hedge of large shrubs alternately planted with smaller shrubs
  • A tightly spaced row of columnar trees or shrubs
  • A mixed shrub hedge along your property line
  • Sheared formal hedges of evergreens separating your front yard from the street
  • A row of fruiting or flowering shrubs encircling seating areas or your porch and patio
  • Groupings of bird-friendly shrubs to protect more delicate plants
  • An edible hedgerow that won’t block sun but keep drifts out of garden beds
  • Strategic rows breaking up large expanses of landscape to slow the blowing wind
  • A single wide-growing shrub or tree to stop small areas from getting piled high in snow
  • A couple of shrubs planted by your steps to keep snow from turning into ice
  • A well-sited shrub to keep gutter downspouts free and clear of snow or ice jam

Choosing Plants For A Snow Barrier


Select shrubs and trees rated for your growing zone and for the amount of sun the area will receive. Then check your drainage and berm the area if there are drainage issues. Make plans to provide irrigation or supplemental moisture while the new plants are established during their first year in the ground. Shrubs that need little to no pruning once established, or can be hard pruned every few years work great!

Other factors to consider are if deer are an issue in your area, grazing livestock, and how much maintenance you can provide your new plants. You’ll also need to be able to control weed competition for the first few years until the plants are large enough to shade them out on their own.

Lastly, remember to have a buffer zone for the captured snow drifts to pile up in! You’ll not want to solve an issue in one area at the expense of another!

Best Shrubs to Stop Drifting Snow

Living snow fencing is not just prettier, but more efficient at slowing wind and catching snow. Especially in rural and farmstead areas, but also in urban areas and the cul-de-sac setting! Not only will you be saving yourself time and money, but you’ll also provide shelterbelts for birds, food for pollinators, and give the area a burst of curb appeal!

Check out these favorite plants that act as natural snow barriers!

Snow Break Trees

  • Amur Maple
  • Bottlebrush Buckeye
  • Box Elder Maple
  • Chokecherry
  • Plum Trees (Native/Chickasaw)
  • Magnolia (multi-stemmed)
  • Witch Hazel
  • Hybrid Poplars

Flowering Shrubs

  • Forsythia
  • Bush Honeysuckle
  • Lilac Bushes
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Flowering Viburnum
  • Oakleaf & Wild Hydrangeas
  • Sand Cherry
  • Shrub/Swamp/Wild Roses


  • Pine, Spruce and Fir Trees
  • Juniper Bushes/Trees
  • Cypress Tree/Bushes
  • Arborvitae Trees/Shrubs
  • Eastern Red Cedar Trees
  • Holly (deciduous & evergreen)
  • Privet/Boxwood Hedges
  • Taxus/Yew Shrubs
  • Winter Heath

Fruiting Shrubs & Trees

  • Currant Bushes
  • Aronia Bushes (Chokeberry)
  • Cranberrybush (Fruiting Viburnum)
  • Hazelnut Trees/Shrubs
  • Raspberry/Blackberry Bushes
  • Elderberry Bushes
  • Blueberry Bushes
  • Fruiting Quince (Flowering too!)
  • Oregon Grape Bushes

Great Fillers

  • Beautyberry Bushes
  • Cotoneaster
  • Large-Scale Ornamental Grasses
  • Mock Orange
  • Serviceberry (Saskatoon)
  • Spirea Bushes
  • Virginia Sweetspire
  • Weigelas

Thicket-Forming & Foliage Shrubs

  • Dogwood Bushes good for wet areas
  • Shrub Willows
  • Sumac Bushes
  • Buttonbush for wet areas
  • Euonymus (Burning Bush)
  • Potentilla
  • Barberry
  • Sea Buckthorn
  • Snowberry
  • St. John’s Wort


Beautiful Living Snow and Wind Barriers!

The best hedges are comprised of plants that are low maintenance and won’t need a lot of pruning, are xeric and native, sucker and form natural thickets, and thrive in a wide range of conditions. Mixing up the biodiversity of your hedge helps too because combinations of fast and slower-growing plants, flowering and fruiting plants, evergreens, and broadleaf evergreen plants with deciduous plants give you the best coverage for the long-term health of your living snow barrier!

You’ll not only make your own life easier and safer, but you’ll contribute to wildlife and songbird populations, provide biodiversity, slow erosion, help with carbon sequestration, slow rainwater and runoff getting into the water supply, and even beautify your landscape while boosting food sustainability!

In an area with problems with drifting snow? You may even qualify for financial help for larger installations that impact public safety! Check with your local County Extension Office for more information about helping your community. Your Extension Office will also have the information on recommended height-to-distance ratios for situating your snow hedge.

So get out there and create a multipurpose snow hedge! Check out the other great hedges for all your landscaping needs at Nature Hills today!

Happy Planting!

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