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Frost Damage

Hold Off On Pruning

Faced with a yard full of frost damaged plants, often the first impulse of the homeowner is to start pruning, removing and replacing. Unfortunately, even after a light freeze, this is not the best course of action.

Any plant that is still alive will attempt to recover from freeze damage. Be assured that many plants that look completely dead will begin to recover when the weather warms up. The method of recovery and resulting appearance will not always match our idea of how the plant should look in our gardens. Many plants will have lost all their woody parts, but will begin to re-grow from root or stem tissue. This is normal and typical recovery process for the plant.

The extent of damage will not be apparent until re-growth starts in warm weather. While initial damage estimates can be made by observing foliage or stem flexibility, many plants are still in the process of realizing damage inflicted by the freeze. In some cases, root systems or circulatory damage is not yet apparent. Some of the plants so damaged may show no outward signs until heat or other stress causes the plant to collapse. What this means to you is that pruning should be delayed in all cases where frost damage is apparent. including discoloration. When growth resumes in the spring, you will easily see which stems or branches are not recovering fully. By the beginning of March, many plants will leaf out and show generally good recovery. Others probably won’t show any signs of re-growth until April or May. Replacement and/or pruning needs to be delayed until then.