Left Out In The Cold
Just when you thought things could not get worse than 2020, 2021 said hold on!!!!
This cold snap brought low temperatures down into the lower teens.. The concern is that many plants were starting to come out of dormancy when the freeze occurred, which could increase injury.
As the weather warms and the sun comes out, the urge to “clean it all up” occurs– but hold tight! What should a homeowner do with their landscape plants after the freeze? Have patience and wait. There is really nothing that can be done to repair injured plants after a hard, prolonged freeze. The best thing to do is to wait until (mid March) to accurately assess the damage. For some plants, the aboveground portions may be dead, but the plants may still come up from the roots. Other plants may bud out again from partially damaged stems. Many cold-sensitive plants will likely need to be replaced, so this year is a good time to replace plants with more cold-hardy species (such plants may be scare at this time).
After a freeze or frost, the leaves of damaged herbaceous plants may immediately appear withered and water soaked. However, the freeze injury to the twigs, branches, or trunks often doesn’t appear on shrubs and trees right away. Wait a few days and then use a knife or thumbnail to scrape back the outer bark on young branches. Freeze-damaged areas will be brown beneath the bark; healthy tissues will be green or a healthy creamy color. Delay pruning until time reveals the areas that are living and dead and until the threat of additional frosts or freezes has passed. Leaving dead limbs and foliage at the tops of plants will help protect the lower leaves and branches from nighttime radiation loss. Pruning after a freeze does not improve the outcome. Also, plants that are pruned tend to be invigorated more quickly, which may set them up for further damage in Texas’s unpredictable cycling of warm and cold temperatures.
Other Things You Should Do
Contact your insurance company to see if your homeowner’s insurance covers freeze damage to plants and irrigation. Before making any major landscaping changes, check with the Association first to make sure that any changes are approved.
Your irrigation system should also be inspected by a Licensed Irrigator, especially the aboveground vacuum breaker, to ensure that it was not damaged during the freeze. This is not a problem you want to discover after you plant new plants.
When hiring contractors, make sure that they have the appropriate liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
And lastly, relax! This too, shall pass. As in prior freezes, we will get through this and perhaps have a better landscape as a result. More importantly, we will be better prepared for freezes that will inevitably come in the future.
Additional helpful resources:
Special thanks to Dr. W. Todd Watson, PhD, BCMA ISA Board-Certified Master Arborist #TX-0974B Consulting Arborist, Horticulturist, and Plant Pathologist Adjunct Professor, Texas A&M University for article content and resource links noted herein.