Maintenance After the Freeze

Our week of freezing temperatures has set back even our native plants.  However, all is not lost!  Use this guide to assess free damage in your landscape.  Patience is key, as some plants might not show signs of new growth until May.

Our first step is to remove things that are black, mushy, or obviously broken.  Prune the plant back to healthy growth (using the scratch test to determine) with clean pruners as soon as possible, or remove it entirely if it cannot be salvaged.  These trimmings are safe to compost.

Especially if you took the proper precautions, our native and adapted trees and shrubs have a good changes of bounching back.  In the case of fruit trees (non-citrus) it may take as long as May for them to leaf out again, so it’s important to give the tree a chance to recover.  Use the scratch test on the branches to determine what is dead and may be pruned.

Citrus trees are more or less cold-tolerant, depending on the variety.  Most citrus trees have been grafted onto a rootstock, so if your tree comes back below the graft, it won’t be the same variety as when you purchased the tree, and likely will not produce desirable fruit.  These trees should be replaced.

Extra notes & exceptions

Tender houseplants and tropicals — Boston ferns, fiddle leaf figs, plumeria, etc. — that were accidentally left exposed are unlikely to recover.

As a rule of thumb DO NOT prune oaks between Feb 1 and July 1 to prevent the spread of oak wilt. This rule still applies, and these trees should just be given time to bounce back. If you must prune branches that pose a hazard, use a pruning sealer after each cut.

Some rosemary varieties are more cold-hardy than others. Tuscan Blue, Barbeque, and Huntington Carpet are all for zones 8-10 and will have suffered more damage than varieties like Arp, Hill Hardy, or Blue Spires which can grow in Zone 6. Wait a couple of weeks to assess damage. If only the tips were hit, you could shear the plant back and it can recover. However if the damage is deeper into the plant, it may need to be replaced. Rosemary rarely pushes new growth through its tough, woody old growth stems, and a mature plant will struggle to recover from extensive damage.

Esperanza, or Yellow Bells, forms woody stems, but should be cut all the way to the ground whether or not we have a freeze. If the plant was sufficiently protected it may still return from the roots.

The same rules apply to container plants, but their chances of survival will not be as great as plants in the ground.  If the roots froze solid, the plant may not recover.

Remember liquid seaweed is a great tonic for plants. It helps plants recover from a wide range of stresses, including cold damage, transplant shock, heat stress and more! Give your plants a dose to help them bounce back sooner!