Just when we thought that spring was definitely here and settled in...
Wham! Winter came back with a vengeance across many parts of the
A few weeks ago, many of us woke up to find frost on the lawn and our
plants looking decidedly cold and miserable. Now spring is back, for
real this time, and the threat of frost should be behind us until next
If you were caught in this year's cold snap, it can be hard to tell
which of your plants are goners and which will live to fight another
day. I have some tips and pointers that should be helpful if you are
still anxious about some of your plants.
Even if you escaped the worst of the late frost this time, you might
not be so lucky in the future. Keep some of these points in mind and
it might help you save some plants next spring!
I received a lot of e-mails from worried readers such as this one:
QUESTION: "I was wondering if we can expect all the damage from the
recent freeze to trees, shrubs and perennials to be permanent. I mean
do you think some of them will survive? At this point they look like
they are dying.
"The Winter Gem boxwoods, azaleas, and day lilies all have extensive
damage. I thought I would trim off the damage when the weather warms a
little. Would fertilizing to start new growth help to save them?
"I also had Magnolia trees, Flowering Cherry trees and Flowering
Crabapple trees and Lilac, Mock Orange, and Flowering Quince Shrubs.
Just about all of them look really bad. I would appreciate any
suggestions." - M. Railey
One of the horticulturist's rules to live by: Do NOT fertilize any
plant with freeze damage until it has put on at least some new growth.
In fact many plant experts will tell you not to fertilize frostbitten
plants until next winter. Why? Because the nitrogen in fertilizer can
cause the plant to leaf out too quickly, adding even more stress to
the trauma it is already trying to resist.
In most cases, trees and shrubs will begin to put on new growth within
two to four weeks after frost damage. This is where Nature really
needs our patience. There is a powerful temptation to start pruning as
soon as we see frost damaged plants. Do not succumb to the
In fact, it is better to avoid any major pruning on frostbitten plants
as they can take up to a year to return to their normal growth
pattern, and pruning, like fertilizing, can add to the stress.
That doesn't mean you cannot trim away small areas of dried up and
obviously dead foliage once the threat of frost is past and new growth
is beginning to come back. Just say no to any major surgery.
However, perennials such as hostas and other delicate plants may show
signs of severe burn. You can go ahead and clip them back now as they
will be putting on new growth. Decayed leaves and branches left on
them will only attract annoying insects.
Remember to water your plants. After a frost attack has passed, many
plants will need water to help them re-leaf after the first tender
leaves were lost to frost.
Again, be patient. Nature can take a while to help plants recover so
fight the urge to do anything too drastic.
QUESTION: "I planted several Mallow Marvel hibiscus last summer. I am
a novice with these plants. Do they die each year and come back full,
or have my plants died? The rest of my plants are budding except
these. The limbs seem to be all dead. Please give me direction." -
ANSWER: Yes, Mallow Marvel is a perennial that will return each
spring, reaching 8 to 10 feet eventually. Don't dig them up. Be
patient and they'll be back
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org