Frost, Freeze, Frozen or Forget it

Frost-covered plant

Frost on young Beech tree

Frost damage

In January we had some unusually cold weather for South Louisiana. After nearly 6 days of temperatures below 32˚ F and at least 3 days in the teens, we are ready for some milder winter weather. But hold on, old man winter is not through just yet. It’s not uncommon for February to provide many more days of frost freeze and frozen plants. Our average last frost date is mid March.

These recent freezes have had an effect on our plants but it’s a little early to severely prune or “cut it all down.” Additionally, many plants weren’t damaged, like trees, shrubs, ground cover and lawns. In any case no pruning of plants should be done till 7 to 10 days after a freeze. It usually takes several days for all the damage to become evident.

Other general tips on what to do following the freeze:

  • For herbaceous / non woody plants (Cannas, elephant ears, begonias, impatiens and ginger) - prune away to living tissue. If it is mushy, slimy or smells, remove it.
  • For woody plants (schefflera, hibiscus, angel trumpet, crotons, tibouchina) - use the thumbnail to check for green tissue.
  • Move container plants back outside.
  • Uncover any covered plants so they can get sunlight.
  • Mulch over Amaryllises, crinums, irises and other bulb plantings.
  • Prune only what needs pruning, cut out the damaged part, and leave the living parts.

Keep in mind, the frost or freeze may have caused frozen plant damage that is beyond repair and that part of the landscape may be beyond recovery. For those plants, forget it and plant for the future.

2/17/2010 10:23:40 PM
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