Texas and many other states around us, have just experienced unusually low temperatures, for an extended length of time, along with high snowfall amounts for our area. Before, during and after events such as this, we get many calls about what to do and how to care for plants that may receive damage due to weather.

Preparation For A Hard Freeze

Keeping your plants healthy and happy year round also helps reduce winter damage. Keep in mind that newly planted shrubs and trees might experience more freeze damage than older, healthy plants with a more established root system.

During A Hard Freeze

If you cover plants, remember to keep an eye on them during warm days, so as not to overheat them with the covering. You may have to remove the covering for a period of time and the recover if another freeze is about to happen. Support blankets or take them off during snowfall to avoid plant breakage.
During a heavy snow event, plant branches may get weighed down and begin to bend or even break. When it is safe, try to knock snow off bending branches. Evergreens tend to experience this more; snow usually safely goes through bare branches just fine.
Ice is a different story, and unfortunately, can be much more difficult to trouble shoot. Avoid trying to remove ice from plant branches. They are brittle when ice covered and more likely to break.

February 2021 Winter Storm

While we had very low temperatures for this winter weather event, they turned out to be lower than expected for a longer length of time, potentially causing more plant damage than expected. You may have noticed zones being mentioned on plant tags.

We also had heavy snowfall during some of these extremely low temperatures, making it more difficult to adequately protect plants with frost blankets, due to potential snow weight on blanketed plants. In some ways, this snow was helpful; it has insulated the plant roots. However, the exposed top growth of the plant will likely show damage.

Recovery After A Hard Freeze

Wait until after the ice and snow have melted to assess for damage.
The signs of freeze damage are evident on many plants but do not always look the same. On tropical and sub topicals they may appear droopy or shriveled, like they are in need of water. Additionally they may turn from green to brown or purple, and stem splitting may happen. If this happens plant recovery is unlikely, or it may take several growing seasons to recover. If you get caught off guard, or we have record breaking lows, and your plant suffer from a freeze, BE PATIENT, don’t go for the pruner and start cutting everything back. It may take several days or weeks to show how much damage has been done to your plant. If the plants become mushy and soft this should be removed to avoid get secondary fungal growth. Broken branches can be removed.
With many woody plants, we suggest waiting until spring when the new growth appears before pruning out damaged plant branches. You can check for life in woody plants by scratching the bark on the stems to see if it is green underneath, if you find green that branch is still viable then your plant is still alive.
As for right now, you should expect to see some partial defoliation, or at least leaf discoloration. Again, don’t start pruning now; wait until new spring growth emerges and cut out branches that don’t leaf back out. Ideally, plants will shed damaged leaves and new ones will emerge this spring. Landscapes might start looking pretty bad before they recover. We already know this will be concerning and you will want to do something. Truly, the best thing you can do is have patience. If they haven’t leafed out in April, do a scratch test and go from there.

Long Term Recovery

Plants that seem fine for the next few months may suddenly show signs of root damage this summer. This would happen if the root system or a large portion of the root system was damaged or killed due to these unusually low temperatures. The plant may not show the damage until the heat stress of summer arrives.

To give your plants a boost this spring (April), feed with a balanced, slow release fertilizer. Make sure the plant gets adequate water, but avoid over watering.

Caring for your plants is a labor of love and it may take some additional time to protect them and help them recover from a hard freeze. If you have any questions, you can call Pioneer Texas today at (210) 569-2156..