Guidelines for Care of Frost Damaged Plants
Even with care to cover and protect your plants it is difficult to prevent winter frost damage from happening. This winter the temperatures got so low, for such a prolonged period of time, we all suffered some plant damage and losses.
Please be patient and don’t remove dead leaves and twigs until at least March 15th , the average date of our last winter freeze. The dead foliage is actually protecting the rest of the plant from further cold damage and can aid the plant in a quicker recovery.
With many plants it can take a while for the full extent of the freeze damage to show up. Other plants may have turned completely brown over-night. Give them a chance to show you how they are doing and how far back you will need to prune. For some plants, like some of the more tender tropicals, this may mean waiting until mid spring or summer for signs of recovery. While you are waiting for the spring recovery process, continue to water the damaged plants, and fertilize them after the last freeze of the season.
Sime trees and shrubs will lose leaves, but the twigs and branches are fine. Some will lose twigs, but the branches remain alive. Some will die back to the trunk, and some will die back to the ground. In each case they may have the potential to come back, and will show it by producing new leaves from the tips of whatever region is still alive. But they will not begin to re-grow until the proper growing season. Palms and cycads may lose all their leaves, but have the potential to grow again in summer.
Cacti and succulents that were damaged require special considerations. Cacti that have turned black or gone to mush can be discarded immediately. Tall cacti with damaged branches should be given some time to show how badly they were frozen. Cutting damaged branches can be done now, but may be a waste of time if the cactus has further die-back in progress. We expect many large cacti will be lost throughout Tucson.
Agaves, Aloes, Haworthias, Lithops, and some other succulents have the potential to recover after significant leaf damage, because these plants grow from a central bud which is deep in the center of the plant and insulated from the cold. Give these plants more time to show if they are alive.
Plants with frost damage will require time and patience to nurse back to health. We grow plants for ornamental purposes. If you cannot tolerate the look of a damaged plant, or if you didn’t like the plant very much, or if you had plans to re-do your landscape, go ahead and remove damaged plants now, while the days are cool and yard work is comfortable. Hold off on replanting until after mid-March.
If your plant was special and you wish to recover it, the key factor is to give it time and keep the growing conditions (water and sun) consistent with normal growing needs.Email this page to a friend