Frost-Bitten Plants

Managing Frost-Bitten Plants

Brown, Droopy Foliage Does NOT Mean the Whole Plant is Dead.

First, that brown, drooping foliage it’s dead. But you probably already knew that. The delicate capillaries inside the leaves burst when they were filled with steadily expanding frozen water. However, if your plant has a woody stem, it’s entirely possible that the stem (and root system) are still in good shape, and that the plant can recover and go on to produce new foliage once the dead material is trimmed away.

You need to know, however, when to trim away the dead parts of your plants, how to tell if they’re still alive somewhere under all that depressing debris, and how to care for them as they recover.

Manage Frost-Bitten Plants Patiently

Patience is important when it comes to managing plants that have been shocked by frost. While you might want to trim away all that gross brown stuff immediately to cut back and find the living part of the plant, that’s a bad idea. Pruning stimulates growth, and if a plant starts producing new growth before the last danger of frost is past, that tender new growth is simply going to get frozen again. Meanwhile, the plant will have dedicated substantial stored energy to producing that growth, making it less able to cope with the sudden freeze.
Avoid fertilizing, for the same reason.

Baby Your Plant Until After the Last Chance of Frost

Instead, you need to wait. Cover your plant with woven fabrics when frost is in the forecast, water it like you normally would, and wait until the last chance of frost is completely over. As the weather transitions into spring, you may feel your fingers itching, but keep waiting: make sure you wait until after the last predicted frost date before you pick up those pruning shears.

Prune Conservatively

When you finally do prune, be conservative. We know … that dead growth looks awful! But here’s the thing: pruning stresses out plants. When a plant is frost-bitten and brow-beaten, the stress of putting out new growth is often too much for it to handle.
Waiting to prune has another benefit: You can see precisely where the new growth emerges, so you know which parts of the plant are dead, and which parts made it through the frost. You can clip back to just above the living parts to get rid of the worst part of the frost damage without disrupting the plant’s growth. Plan on leaving the plant alone to recover. Keep it watered, sheltered, and cared-for, but avoid excessive pruning or fertilizing.

Redirect your focus away from the frost-bitten plants. Talk to Taylor Anthony 365, and plan your plantings — and maybe some new landscape design — for spring. Before you know it, the weather will be warming up, and your garden will be back on track.

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