Frost damage?

kelly-gardenerMay 10, 2010

I have two figs, a Celeste and an LSU Purple, that I have been growing for over ten years. We are in an area that rarely gets a hard freeze, but this year we had several freezes and one period of several days when the temperatures dipped into the low 20's at night. During those times I covered the base of the trees with hay and blankets.

This spring, the figs budded out. Some branches grew leaves and some budded and failed. A portion of the branches that grew leaves have now had their leaves wither away. Only a few branches have leafed out and are bearing figs. This has occured on both trees. I have pruned some of the non-productive branches and get down into green wood on many of them. Not all are dead. I am very curious as to what has caused this problem. Is this typical of freeze damage or could it be something else?

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I've seen the same here in one of our fig groves. The LSU Purple have mostly been affected, although the Improved Celeste we have planted haven't wilted at all. I do think it was our unusually cold winter down here in southern LA. I guess the trees in this zone just aren't... accustomed to it. Now that they have experienced it, though, they should do well next time, if they're anything like our citrus in habit.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 11:52AM
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I've seen the same thing in my yard this year. In my case, it was caused by winter damage due to our unusually cold winter. Right now it is hot & the ground is very dry and I'm hose watering my in ground fig trees. I can't stress enough the IMPORTANCE of keeping the ground always moist around YOUNG in ground fig trees especially in our climate. Winter damaged older trees benefit from this too.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 12:48PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Tyler - Commonly, each species of plant has a general range of cold-hardiness. Within species and cultivar, cold-hardiness is genetically determined. That is to say that a plant propagated from cuttings or tissue culture will have the same ability to resist cold as the parent plant - no more (or less). Your trees cannot "develop" a greater degree of cold-hardiness or be "conditioned" by repeated or prolonged exposure to cold, even after 100 years.

GG - Chill injury and freezing injury are different. Chill injury can occur in some plants at temperatures well above 40*. The same cells in the same plant can also vary significantly in their ability to resist freezing injury. Cells that are chilled rapidly or cells that have lost some of their cold-hardiness due to soil temperatures high enough to have stimulated the plant to growth will be far less able to withstand sub-freezing temps; so trees are most susceptible during cold snaps after a warm period - and especially if it came on when sap was rising.

Simply put, it's very likely it got cold enough that the plasma membranes of cells essential to the transport of water and solutes through xylem tissues were destabilized when they froze. As a result the plant became unable to adequately move water and affected tissues succumbed to dehydration.

BTW - turgid (water-filled) cells are less resistant to chill or freezing injury, so a well-hydrated plant is not a particularly good thing when cold threatens. It is better to allow your plants (young or old) to remain on the dry side, even mildly drought stressed in the winter if you are concerned about freezing. Roots don't need nearly the moisture levels in winter to keep the top hydrated .... just don't let the roots dry out completely.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 4:09PM
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Check your trees for any bark splits. I live in South Louisiana zone 9 and had several damaged trees this past winter from branches & trunks that froze and the bark split. No matter how hardy the tree, when it freezes and forms expanding ice.....there will be damage. LSU Purple is not a very cold hardy variety due to its very early sap flow.....and its near refusal to go dormant in the fall. It is the FIRST fig cultivar in my yard to awaken in the spring.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 5:20PM
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