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Post Frost Planting Tips


Unexpected, late-season freezes can mean big trouble for irrigation systems and plants. Follow these tips to help your landscapes look better faster.

September 14, 2021

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Post Frost Planting Tips



The Cold Hard Truth on Plant Freeze Recovery

If the freeze we experienced recently left you in the cold, it’s nothing compared to what it may have done to your customers’ shrubs and trees. The question now is what can be saved and how. Our plant freeze recovery tips will help.

Determine a Plant’s Condition

Shrub and tree damage can be effectively checked a few ways. 

•    Smaller branches should still be pliable, bendable, or springy. If they snap while testing their elasticity, (slightly bending the smaller parts of the branch) it’s a sign of damage. 

•    Leaves that are damaged will drop from the branches naturally if the actual branches remain intact. A branch that holds dead leaves, or doesn’t drop them, is no good.

•    Use the “simple scratch” test. Start scratching at the tip of the branch and continue to move back and forth making small scratches every foot until you find green. The deeper you go to find green the deeper the damage. If green appears early in the process the tree or shrub should survive. 

Patiently Wait to See How Much Damage There Really Is 

Patience is a virtue. If you can hold up on pruning, you’ll be better off. 

•    As plants leaf back out over the next few weeks or a month, you will see how extensive the damage may be.
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•     If the tips of a plant have not come back or “re-leafed,” you will be able to determine just how far you need to prune.  

Check Sensitive Plants

Plants like Loropetalum, Rosemary, Hawthorns, Wax Leaf Ligustrum and other similar varieties, will probably need to be replaced after a deep freeze. If they were protected from colder winds, or were closer to a house, they still may survive. Give them a few weeks to see how they rebound. If in 14 to 28 days nothing has happened, then it’s likely time for replacing. 

Get the Mush out of there!

Is vegetation mushy and rotting? That’s disease waiting to infect your landscape. 
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  • If foliage is mushy, remove the material as soon as possible. Be sure to only remove the wet and mushy parts. 
     
  • Do not remove the whole plant unless it is all mushy. Agave and Aloes could come back from the roots. However, depending on the plant size, this can be a slow process and it might be easier to replace than nurse the plant back.
     
  • In the case of Agave and Aloes, as well as some cactus, it can take a year plus for them to rebound.
     
  • For palms, brown fronds should be removed to help stimulate possible new fronds sprouting from the center of the trunk. It could be eight or more weeks before new fronds emerge.  However, waiting is the only way to determine if a plant will rebound. 

Know When to Wait 

Remember those nice perennials that you planted the past few years? They may or may not be coming back after this freeze. A lot of the popular perennials were not made to handle the weather that Texas experienced during the freeze. Your best practice is to patiently wait to see how much damage did, or did not, occur.

Replace Lost Plants

Follow these helpful tips and start replacing lost plants now
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  • If you are looking at annuals and softer material, you are good by mid-March to early April (Watch the long range forecast though.)
     
  • Start with plants that don’t mind cool lows at night. 
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  • Be sure you’re sourcing planting material that is hardy for your specific growing areas.

Fertilizing Recovering Plants

At the start, access your stressed plant material and make sure everything is hydrated. You will want to water them, not drown them. A moderate amount of water can go a long way.  Then, if your plant is alive and taking water, help it along with some food. There are several things that you want to be sure of before you do any fertilizing of your recovering plants.
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  1. Be sure that you are past the possibility of another cold snap before you begin to feed your plants. Fertilizer will stimulate your plants to start to grow, but another frost during this stimulation can be damaging.  
     
  2. Stay away from fertilizer that has a very high first number in the formula followed by two very low numbers after, such as 28-3-10 or 24-0-0. These fertilizers are designed to push top growth and can do more damage to an already weak plant. 
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  3. Use fertilizers that offer a mild blend/balanced formula like LESCO Granular L&O 14-14-14. There is a lower chance of burning and the balanced formula will address your plants’ overall needs. You’ll also want to stick with a granular formula over a liquid feed to promote extended release that’s longer lasting and will deliver nutrients in a more balanced way.

Nothing can completely undo the damage plants and shrubs faced in the freeze. But our nursery branches are poised to help you with questions and replacements.  Visit SiteOne.com to start sourcing new plant material or visit your local branch for in-person assistance.