What should be done for the landscape after a freeze? Caution is often the best way to go, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill.
Even though you may see damage immediately, do not prune any plants for at least a few days to a week after a freeze. It often takes several days for all damage to be apparent, Gill says.
Damaged growth on herbaceous or nonwoody plants, such as cannas, elephant ears, agapanthus, amaryllis, birds of paradise, begonias, impatiens, philodendron and gingers, may be pruned back to living tissue to help keep the winter garden looking neat.
Damaged tissue that is oozy, mushy, slimy and foul smelling, however, should be removed. This decaying tissue is unhealthy for the plant.
Don’t be too quick to remove tropical plants that appear to be dead, Gill says. Sometimes, they may eventually sprout again from the base of the plant or the roots in April or May. Our climate encourages rapid growth and recovery.
Damaged foliage on banana trees should be removed, but don’t cut back the trunk unless you’re sure it has been killed — it will look brown, feel mushy, be loose in the soil and bleed, if punctured.
Dead leaves on woody tropical plants such as hibiscus, croton, ixora, cassia, bougainvillea and copper plant can be picked off to make things look neater.
If you can clearly determine which branches are dead, you may prune them back, Gill says. If you scratch the bark with your thumbnail and the tissue underneath is green, it’s still alive. If the tissue is tan or brown, the branch is dead. Start pruning at the top and work your way down to see how far back the plant was killed.
This pruning is optional and will not help the plant deal with any damage, he notes. Generally, it’s a better idea to delay hard pruning of woody plants until new growth begins in the spring. Then, you can more accurately determine which parts have survived the winter and what is dead. Living parts will send out new growth.
Tender perennial bedding plants such as impatiens, wax begonias, pentas, blue daze, scaevola, periwinkle and coleus may be lost to a freeze. Although it’s nice when they make it through mild winters, these plants are not intended to be permanent, Gill says.
We may see more freezes before winter is over, he says, so protect what you can when needed.
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