How to Fix a Broken Branch

Standard

You can often “reinstall” a broken branch. All photos: Denis Giroux

Question: We have a crabapple with a branch that has almost been torn off by the weight of the snow. Can we fix the branch or will we have to remove it?

Denis Giroux

Answer: It’s often possible to save a branch that has partially torn off a tree or even entirely broken free by grafting it back into place, much like you can graft an amputated finger back onto a human hand… although in the case of a tree, no microsurgery is required!

20181226B Denis Giroux

First, maneuver the branch into the right position.

First you have to get the branch temporarily into the right position. Another pair of hands would be very helpful at this point. You can also prop the branch up with one or more stakes or tie it temporarily into place with wire or cord. You’ll want it perfectly aligned with its original position.

Grafting the branch back onto the trunk can be as simple as screwing it back into place with two or three galvanized screws, but that will only work if the branch is quite small. In your case, the branch is far too heavy and screws are not going to suffice. You’ll need to use a threaded rod (available in any hardware store) instead.

20181226C Denis Giroux.jpeg

Use a threaded rod, washers and nuts to solidly hold the branch in place.

Pierce a hole through the base of the branch and right through the trunk with an electric drill and insert the rod. Place a washer and a nut on each end and tighten firmly to hold the branch tightly against the trunk.

20181226D Denis Giroux.jpeg

More than one rod may be necessary to hold the branch in place.

To finish, remove any shoring, rope or wiring (certainly, don’t leave anything wrapped around the trunk for too long, otherwise it will choke the tree!). You can also cut off any excess length of threaded rod if you want.

Aftercare

It isn’t necessary or even useful to paint the wound with any kind of product. Just let nature take its course. Fresh cells and bark will slowly cover the wound and eventually it will be scarcely visible.

Grafting a tree branch back into place doesn’t have a 100% success rate, but if in the spring healthy foliage sprouts on the broken branch, there is a good chance that it will recover perfectly and go on to live for many years.