Ask The County Agent: How do I help plants recover after freezing temperatures?


By STEPHANIE BUTCHER, Coweta County Extension Office

QUESTION –  What can I do to help my landscape plants recover after freezing temperatures?

AGENT – This last freeze was tough on our landscape plants and small fruits like strawberries.  They were just starting to put out new growth. In fact, local strawberry growers had to cover tender berries and blooms that had already formed. Some even reported temperatures as low as 27 degrees in certain areas around Coweta County.

The best way to deal with freeze injured plants is to prune off the affected tissues. Prune dead branch tips after bud break. Give plants, such as liriope, a shearing to remove dead foliage.

Freeze injury symptoms can include blackening or bleaching of foliage, tip dieback, stem or branch splitting and plant death. The damage may not be readily apparent, especially on trees. Trunk damage and splitting may develop months to years later.

Tomatoes or Tender Ornamental Annuals
If you had already planted tomatoes or other warm season annuals and were not able to cover them before the freeze, then those will likely need to be replanted

Trim off dead parts of leaves but leave as much healthy leaf surface as possible.

Crape Myrtle, Butterfly Bush
No pruning is required unless you see dead stems in mid-May. These plants flower on new growth, produced after March, and will drop any damaged leaves and put out new ones in the next few weeks.

‘Burford’ Holly, Azalea, Loropetalum
Prune out dead foliage now as needed.

Branch tips where new growth was damaged may not flower this spring, but limbs closer to the ground with no damage may produce flowers in June. Look for flower heads over the next week or two; decide then whether you want to prune brown stem tips without flowers. They won’t bloom this year and may not next year if you wait too late, but it’s a great opportunity to shape an out-of-control shrub. Continuous bloomers like ‘Endless Summer’ will flower but later than normal.

Japanese maples
Remove scorched leaves later in the season once you are sure they are dead. Wait until late May to prune because some maples will be slow to produce new leaves.

For more information about ornamental plants and horticulture, contact UGA Cooperative Extension in Coweta County at 770-254-2620 or [email protected].

“The University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, Veteran, Disability Institution.”

Photo by Stephanie Butcher, UGA Coweta County Extension

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