Creating a Hurricane-Resistant Landscape Which Trees are Best?

There’s no doubt that residents of Southwest Louisiana have learned hard lessons about hurricane preparation and hurricane recovery. As rebuilding and recovery continue from the storms of 2020, making property improvements to withstand future weather events is a primary concern. This includes your landscape.

“While completely hurricane-proofing your landscape is impossible, you can choose trees that are more likely to withstand hurricane-force winds and heavy rain,” says Chad Everage with Landscape Management.

Trees are often seen as a threat in severe weather situations. Branches can become hazards and trunks can fall across structures or roads, causing property damage and delaying recovery efforts after a storm. “But this doesn’t mean you should plan a landscape free of trees,” says Everage. “What trees are planted, and how they are planted, will increase the chances of their survival and can provide a valuable buffer zone against storm damage. Research has found that foliage density and topography can modify wind speed and direction.”

Everage explains that wind-resistant trees have some of these common characteristics:

  • Native species
  • Slow growing
  • Hard woods
  • Young to middle-age
  • Healthy and vigorous
  • Well-maintained
  • Low center of gravity
  • Deep, penetrating radial roots
  • Open branching character
  • Heavy stout leaders
  • Flexible limbs and short leaf branching
  • Small, fine-textured leaf
  • Deciduous leaves (sheds leaves seasonally)

Picking the proper tree species is important, but Everage says other factors also contribute to hurricane-resistance as well.  “A tree can be either wind-resilient or failure-prone based on where it is planted and the care it has received.” He offers the following advice:

Right Tree, Right Place. Choose indigenous (native) trees that are well-suited for your landscape. Avoid conflict between trees and hardscapes and match planting space to the full-grown size of the tree.  Plant larger trees away from your home, power lines, and other structures. This reduces the risk of branches—or trees—falling on your home and/or knocking down power lines.

Grouping. Trees in groups tend to sustain less damage than single trees standing alone. Planting groups of mixed trees together can greatly enhance wind resistance. The trees buffer each other as well as your property.

Roots. Trees with wide spreading root systems are less likely to topple in strong winds, so it is important to allow trees enough room for their mature size. Circling/girdling root systems are one of the most common reasons for tree failure. Circling roots will never grow out in the landscape. As the canopy of the tree increases, the root ball stays small, which can result toppling during a storm.

Maintenance. Regular pruning promotes healthy growth and removes dead, dying, or diseased limbs that may break off in strong winds.  Assess trees regularly, paying close attention to the branches. Remove limbs that are dying, damaged, or weakly connected to the trunk. Thinning or reducing the crown can reduce trunk movement during a hurricane. You can also prune to reshape the tree. When done correctly, reshaping can make trees more resistant to wind damage. If branches are large or high in the tree, it’s best to get professional help.

“There are no guarantees when it comes to major hurricanes and the damage that can result,” says Everage. “But planning and proper tree maintenance can help reduce the risk of potential damage to your landscape and your property.”

For more information about choosing trees for your landscape, or any other landscape service or material, call Landscape Management at (337) 478-3836, or visit


Plant “Survivor,” not “Victim” Trees!

The LSU Ag Center studies of trees following hurricanes classifies tress as “survivor trees” and “victim trees.” Survivor trees are more likely to survive hurricane winds. They are compact, with a major tap root and well-developed secondary roots. These trees also have well-tapered trunks with a low center of gravity and flexible stems that can bend without breaking. By contrast, victim trees are weighted down by a dense canopy and have a high center of gravity. These trees are usually fast-growing, weak-wooded and shallow-rooted in heavy clay or wet soils, and either snap or uproot in strong storms.

Examples of Survivor Trees

  • Bald Cypress
  • Live Oak
  • Sabal Palm
  • Windmill Palm
  • Mexican Fan Palm
  • Black Gum
  • Cow Oak
  • Iron Wood
  • Shumard Oak
  • Winged Elm
  • River Birch
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Southern Magnolia
  • Willow oak

Examples of Victim Trees

  • Pecan
  • Pine
  • Some Red Oaks
  • Red Cedars
  • Ornamental Pears
  • Willow
  • Silver Maples
  • Box elders
  • Cottonwoods
  • Hickories
  • Some Elms

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