Living in tornado alley is akin to living on a dart board. We know that, as springtime arrives and cold air from the north collides with moist warm air from the south, lines of storms will form and roll across the Great Plains. Where they’ll become severe and create straight line winds or tornadoes, only the Weather Channel can estimate. How is a person supposed to have a tidy garden and mature trees in this area? Well, there is indeed only so much you can do, but some good planning and a Buddhist-style detachment go a long way.


There are a few things you can do to help your plants survive strong winds.There are trees that withstand strong winds better than others. You can ask our certified Kansas arborist for advice, but in general, you want to avoid trees with shallow root systems, such as Leyland cypresses, and stick with trees that grow deep roots and a solid trunk. This type of tree includes Magnolia, Oaks, Bald Cypress (likes moist areas) and Elm trees. Trees to avoid because they snap or blow over easily include Red Cedar, Willow, Box Elder and Cottonwood. Proper pruning of trees can help them withstand strong winds. Call for an appointment with our arborist to find out if your trees could benefit from professional pruning.

Hail and Tornados

There isn’t much you can do to protect your plants from hail, but you can help them recover. We cover the first recovery steps below. If you know a storm is coming, you can put *well-secured* tarps or buckets over especially fragile plants. Be sure to not use anything like bricks that could become a projectile in a tornado. But, as an “act of God” there isn’t much you can do except pick up the pieces and move forward.

Torrential Down Pours

If you have plants that will become flattened by a torrential downpour, such as leaf lettuce, you can plant them in a movable container and bring them inside the house, garage of garden shed when severe weather heads your way.

After the Storm

When you have a storm blow through, there are some things you can do, and some you can not. As soon as it is safe to go outside, access the damage.

  • Pick up the branches and leaves that have blown off the trees. If there is a larger limb that is broken, but caught in the tree or on power lines, be sure to have them removed professionally so no one gets hurt.
  • Check for broken branches on shrubs and smaller trees. Neatly prune and remove damaged branches.
  • Check for fallen but essentially undamaged, or only partially damaged, fruits and vegetables. Eat what you can and throw the rest in the compost pile. Remove damaged leaves.
  • Give your annuals a week to recover. Trim them back to their last set of healthy leaves and fertilize them. If it looks like they are not going to make it, replant them.

Replace the Plants

If you get hit by the dart, and you need to replace destroyed perennials, annuals, shrubs or trees, be sure to stop by TLC Nursery & Outdoor Living’s garden center at 1000 South 10th Street in Independence and get everything you need to replant and start again, just as gardeners all over tornado alley have to do from time to time.