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Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023

Plant Damage


How healthy is your landscaping after December’s flash freeze?

The “flash freeze” event in late December 2022 really took a toll on our landscapes. We are seeing lots of brown foliage, and many plants have defoliated. Stay calm, and let’s assess the damage before you start digging up plants.

There will be some unexpected casualties, but many of your plants will pleasantly surprise you and rebound in the spring. It is also early in the winter season, and more freezes are likely. Your plants need the brown foliage to protect them for the next six weeks.

Our woody plants (azaleas, camellias, abelia, distylium, sunshine ligustrum ...) took a hit. These plants – although sometimes evergreen – are likely going to defoliate. The brown leaves will fall off. However, we see that most of the woody stems are still green and very much alive. These plants will flush back out in the spring.

You may have some cane dieback, which will need to be pruned, but wait until closer to spring ... mid-February, before you reach for the pruners.

Our woody perennials (roses, hydrangeas ...) are going to be fine. When new growth begins to flush out in the spring, you may have some cane dieback which will need to be pruned.  You will cut in small increments until you see green.

Some perennials (agapanthus, daylilies) are mush. This is normal. You can go ahead and clean up the mushy flesh to tidy up the garden. Just be careful not to remove the green base. That will serve as the base of our new plants in late spring.

The biggest surprise was how hard the freeze hit our winter annuals. Kale, cabbage, snapdragons, dianthus and violas took a big hit. I plan to cut back my snapdragons and see if they will come back in the spring for their big spring show. The pansies and violas are already making a comeback. Don’t be too quick to rip up these annuals. They may come back and reach their full potential in the coming months.

We may have some bark split and trunk damage on deciduous trees such as crepe myrtles and live oaks. It is too early to tell. Some signs may not show up until later in the year.

The key takeaway is practice patience and assess the damage before taking action. You can start dreaming about making changes in the garden. If you lost some beloved plants, rejoice that you can take stock of what survived, and you have the opportunity to plant something you have been eyeing to replace lost plants.


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