Did an unexpected cold blast hit your area? If so, then unprotected or cold sensitive plans may have been hit. Follow the proper steps to ensure they survive.
Resist the tendency to over care for cold weather stunned plants. Frostbitten plants should actually be left alone until new growth starts. This will mark exactly where the freeze damage stops. Wait until new buds start to open before you evaluate the damage.
Discourage Pre-Winter Growth
You should not over-water or over-fertilize before cold weather hits because it might encourage the plants to produce new, tender growth, which will be more susceptible to the cold. Similarly, do not fertilize a plant that has freeze damage. Wait until spring. You don't want your plant to leaf out too quickly since it will increase the stress the plant has already suffered.
Heavy Pruning Causes Plant Stress
While it is tempting to get out and cut out the ugly damage, wait until the cold weather stunned plants return to their normal growth pattern before heavy pruning. Sometimes, this may take up to a year.
Wait and See
The best prescription for cold weather stunned plants is to "wait and see." Once the threat of frost is past and new growth starts to appear, you may trim away the dried, dead foliage. Do this sparingly, resisting the urge to prune heavily. In the case of delicate perennials, go ahead and remove decayed leaves and branches. If you can find it within you to leave them alone, however, the dead parts will eventually fall off on their own. Do water your plants after a heavy frost. They will need water to help them push forward to new growth.
In the case of container plants or potted plants, such as tropicals, which have been left outside too long, the only remedy is to bring them inside as soon as possible. Do not put them directly into a very warm room. Bring them into the garage or on a sun porch. You don't want to shock them further with intense cold followed by too much heat. Most often, with water, nutrients and warmth in the right quantities, the plant will snap back. The dead parts will fall off and new foliage will eventually appear. If you leave container plants outside in the winter, group the pots together. This will help them retain vital warmth.
Ounce of Prevention Is Worth More Than a Pound of Cure
Prevention is by far the best route to take where cold weather damage is concerned. To prevent further damage from additional cold spells, use the following tips:
- Covering plants does help protect them from severe cold. You can use anything from inverted plastic pots to cut-off 2-liter soda bottles and old sheets. Remember to remove the covering during the day when it is warm, though.
- Mulching not only helps the soil to retain water, it helps keep plants warmer.
- Tropical plants are best carried indoors over the winter since they are too delicate to survive extremely cold temperatures.
- If you live in a climate with very cold winter temperatures, you should choose your plants carefully for cold-hardiness. There are a great many plants that grow well in the winter - even in snow.
- Plant with cold weather needs in mind. Planting where there is full sun, or in an area that retains heat (such as canopy-covered areas) will help your plants survive better when it is cold.
Cold Weather Stunned Plants
Most of your plants, especially those that indigenous to your region, will snap back after a cold "spell." Native plants have evolved to withstand your climate. Tropical plants and more tender annuals and perennials will have a tougher time adapting to harsh climates. Bring any plants in containers indoors, in a garage or sun porch. Should frost damage occur, reserve your judgment and do not prune until new growth starts to appear. However, watering stunned plants does help them overcome shock. They need this nourishment to form new growth and to heal.