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Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Posted by lesdvs9 z9 CA (My Page) on
Sat, Dec 2, 06 at 13:08

I've got a mess of plants that are half dead from having 22+ degree temps prolonged. I don't know what's best, leave them be or prune off the dead part to let the plants energy concentrate on what's left. I'm in Visalia. I have a 2 hibiscus, one is severely damaged and one is half dead. I have 8 lantana in various shapes of deadness? My crepe myrtles also look half dead to dead depending on the variety. Either this enforced a quick dormancy or they're dead. My australian ferns were sheltered on two sides and have some frond damage. I have other plants and shrubs also. Some just totally "melted" like left over summer annuals. All the bird of paradises in the neighborhoold did that also I noticed.

All these were planted from mid July thru Sept and are very tender/young. Do I do something or leave them be? I appreciate any suggestions/advice, I haven't grown in the valley for 14 years, and grown these plants in that long. Last night is supposed to be the last night for below 32 degrees.
Leslie


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

I would leave them be until winter's over. This is just the start of winter weather.
You're crepe myrtles are probably fine. They're pretty cold hardy, but they do go dormant in winter.

Anytime you want to check for "deadness", just scratch a little of the bark. You should see green underneath.

wanda


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sat, Dec 2, 06 at 20:22

If you have a copy of the Sunset Western Garden Book Encyclopedia, what to do for frost damaged plants is pretty well covered. In general, it is recommended to leave things be, but if you know how the plant grows, and is in many cases okay to do some pruning and cleanup, especially with things that are herbaceous anyway and will come back from the roots. If you expect more of the same cold weather, it might be a good idea to cover up with sheets or freeze fabric the plants that are most damaged. You can always take a high pressure water nozzle and knock of obviously dead foliage a week or so after the freezing weather, which at least gets rid of the burnt by a flame thrower look of brown leaves. Best to wait at least 7 days to do the fingernail test for green cambium on stems of frozen back plants, before doing any cutting...


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Oh Leslie, I'm so sad to hear about all the damage. It's heart breaking to see so much damage after all your hard work.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Thanks Westelle, it was a chance I took against mother nature and lost, I wanted to get a jump on next year. I thought if I could get them through the heat we had this summer I had it in the bag, I just didn't figure on record coldness as well as the record heat we had! I beat the heat, the cold the first night caught me unaware, I wasn't watching the news that night and didn't know there was anything I could do until after the 2nd night, I found out on the rose forum about using sheets and boxes. Too late for the plants and shrubs but at least all the roses made it and they represent half of my total costs. Now I know and I'll be watching the news the rest of the winter!
I hope your citrus fared better than my plants did.

Yes I do have a Western Garden Book and I'll refer to that, I'd forgotten that section, I look up plants all the time in it. Thanks for the info, that's what I needed to know, to just leave them be. I do appreciate the responses. Thanks, Leslie


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Man, that really sucks. So sorry to hear about your damage. I didn't realize Visalia was a cold microclimate -- I thought it was citrus country, but I guess the citrus is somewhere nearby. Yeah, like everyone said, just wait until spring. I can't believe it was THAT cold! Bird of paradise are pretty tough, as are the tree ferns -- to be damaged, it's gotta get down there.

Since you seem to be in a really chilly microclimate, you might want to seriously consider a few other plants unless you want constant trouble with these. This wasn't that bad of a cold snap -- we're inland bay area, and some neighborhoods got a light freeze but we didn't. So I think of this as fairly normal of the coldest lows we should get at some point each winter.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

I went over to my son't yesterday and helped him clean his bushes and yard up, his came through really well with only a bare minimum of damage to the tips of his and he has some of the same bushes. So, again it's because all of mine were tender new plants. If they had been established, even a year old it'd have been different story. If the plants I had been able to gradually gotten used to a cooling off hardening day and evening period that might have made a difference. One day it was 60 and 40 at night and the next day it was in the 50's and that night it was 30 and the next day it was 48 and that night it was 22....

Everything I had planted with the exception of the bouganvilla was a zone 9 plant. And the bouganvilla is only singed on the very tips nearest the top of the fence. It's sandwiched between the fence and the house and so was pretty sheltered on that side of the house. That was a plant Lowes had no business selling in our area and my ignorance purchasing it thinking it would grow here just because they sold it before looking it up.

Yeah, they spend alot of cold nights in the citrus groves when the temps drop, usually it's not this early. I'm not sure what they're running, windmills or water or both to try to keep the fruit and trees from freezing. I thought it was late Jan last year when it hit freezing. My brother told me they didn't get that cold in Stockton either. Again, it's mainly the plants were just too young, if I had gotten them in the ground last spring but we moved in here in July and I planted then and in Aug and Sept. My worry was the heat and I thought I had it made.

Oh well... whatever makes it through this winter are the right plants for future winters then and I'll find stronger plants to replace them in the spring for the ones that don't come back. No, that was not normal cold for us.
Leslie


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Leslie, You're suppose to plant new plants after Sept. You were correct, and I think you'll be surprised what comes back next spring. I'm sure you've heard of micro-climates and apparently your Bougie is in one with the air kept warmer by the mass of the house. We are lucky because we're behind a "foothill" which seems to protect us from the worst of the weather. I have more micro-climates than I can keep track of. I found some special sheeting at Loews the other day that is suppose to help protect from cold... and it was only $12.50. I was able to cut the huge square in two and make two long x wide drapes to cover two more citrus.

I think it was about 1998 that we had very cold weather for about two weeks running. Most very thing came back -- including the CA Peppers -- and anything that didn't survive that cold didn't get replanted. After 9 years my yard pretty much is frost hardy.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Excellent, then your citrus are making it ok then? With the cold backing off slightly giving you a chance, I'm glad for you. We'd moved up to CA Hot Springs in '93 and had missed that. I'll have to look at Lowe's for that cloth then when I hit there next, I was using a flannel sheet, I'd given all my old sheets to my boys when they set up housekeeping. I heard they had a run on all the sheets though. Thanks for that and I'll give it a look. I imagine in a few years mine will be going well also. Leslie


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Cloud cover is a spray that will help plants through freezing by keeping the moisture inside the leaves. My lemons are sprayed every year and the fruit and leaves stay on. Also keep your plants watered so the roots don't dry out as the humidity is very low right now. All the dead stuff should stay on until you see new leaves peak through.

Penny


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Thanks Penny, I'm a picker and it's second nature to walk by and want to pick it off. I'll refrain, it's almost automatic. That's what I needed to know. Leslie


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

I'm surprised by all the frost-protecting precautions everyone is taking! So much work! We live in a Zone 9(b) climate and get at least a few nights of frost every year, but we do zero, zilch, zippo to protect our citrus, bougies, bananas, macadamia, jacaranda, hibiscus, and we never have any trouble with them. Has anyone ever skipped a year to see if it really made any difference to ignore the plants instead of cradling them? Are you sure it's necessary to do all this? In my own ignorance, everything is flourishing in my yard...


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

  • Posted by eureka z8aCAHiDesert (My Page) on
    Fri, Dec 8, 06 at 23:36

I think that we may be going through some of the screwy weather that many parts of the US have experienced. My guess is that we will see more unusual weather patterns this winter and going into spring. Keeping an eye on the weather forecasts is probably going to be essential.

I'm up in the Victor Valley along the 15 fwy, 2 1/2 hrs from Vegas, 40 min's from San Berdo & Ontario. We finally have winter temps but they were late in coming. However, we also dropped substantially lower than we had for a number of years. One day my yard looks fall like, the next it looked absolutely dead. My plants and trees are all suited for this region as it used to be w/much lower winter temps but I was caught off guard when I took a look around a few days ago, the plants look really bad, not sure what will survive. I said the same thing this summer when we had that terrible heat. My daylilies took a beating and I was just beginning to feel confident that they were regaining their strength but now I'm not so sure what to expect. Plants getting hit hard by weather twice in a year can't be good.

I guess we all will sit in suspense until March/April.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Mine actually came through that 117 heat ok, it was the freeze that got mine. At least with heat wilt you can water and perk it up. Freeze melt/scorch/burn is so irreversible on some plants and on some others with the warmer weather we had this week, I've watered and I'm seeing a little green peaking out. Who knows what plants will make it through this weird winter?? I don't think I will replace that particular plant that doesn't because if this is the wave of the future with weather I need plants and shrubs that are hardier than what I have. Good luck with yours, Eureka.

I think most years of regular frosts Kerrican that you don't really need to go to extra lengths to protect unless you're growing what isn't supposed to be in our zone, and some people do grow those plants. I didn't bother last year but it also was a rental house waiting for mine to be built and it wasn't my investment, and none of the plants there seemed to take the frosts harshly, so I'd say no then on normal frosts. When it's prolonged days below freezing then on certain plants you might want to take measures or bank on whether or not you might loose that plant.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Just afew years ago, all my neighbors lost their citrus but I had sprayed and saved mine and actually, it doesn't take that long to do frost protection. We have had several nights below 32 here in the past few weeks plus it has been very dry. Those the perfect conditions for killer frosts.

Penny


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Napapen what did you spray your citrus with? I used some cloud cover last year. This year I didnt. Cant say I can tell any difference so far.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

I have used Cloud Cover for a number of years and it is a more of just in case of killer frost. A bottle lasts a long time so I think it is worth it.

Penny


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

I'd agree with bfreedman -- I doubt Cloud Cover is worth it for any but the most tropical plants (we used to have some good results with Cloud Cover on banana trees for example, but now we just grow the hardy varities like basjoo and don't have to worry about leaf burn anymore). But almost all citrus, except for perhaps key lime and a couple of other uncommon ones not usually sold here, tolerate a good freeze once in a while. We're in a Zone 15, and we've never, ever sprayed our citrus in 25 years. The only one we ever lost was a Bearss lime in the all-time lows of 1990. In the past five years since we moved to a new home and planted about 12 citrus trees, we have never had so much as a scratch even with the occasional freeze. Citrus is not really tropical but subtropical, so I agree that cloud cover is overkill on these -- they just don't need it.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Sorry if this sounds a bit unconcerned - as I know our coastal temps aren't as hot/cold as the rest of CA., but a comment if I may.

This year, I decided to try Remay coverings - not for weather, but to prevent the white cabbage butterfly from defoliating my vegetable crops. Was not too hopeful that it would work.

Anyway, it seems to be controlling not only the insect problem, but has provided a moderating influence for my vegetable crops. They are the best I've had for so early and not affected as much by either the blistering heat waves or the occasional 40's we may get.

I appreciate this doesn't affect the ornamentals but is offered to the veggie growers for their consideration.

Just my 2 c's.

Bejay


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Loews was selling something like row cover to protect trees, etc. from the freezing we just had. I covered some of the citrus with it and so far it's worked quite well.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Not meaning to offend, but after reading these posts, it sounds like some of you are thinking that a normal winter dormancy in some of the plants are "freeze damage". I think Eureka mentioned how bad the daylillies look. True, some are evergreen, but even those can suffer leaf damage in freezing temps, but more are deciduous and do die back in winter, but the roots don't freeze so they aren't killed and will come back again with spring warm temps. Those things even survive in the midwest and colder zones.
I think we're all spoiled by having such a long growing season and having so many evergreen plants in our gardens, that when the cold knocks them into dormancy, we often think they're dead from freeze. Often, this is not the case. They may look terrible, but leave them be until spring and you'll be surprised at what pops right back.

True, many of us do push our zonal limits, and some plants, esp. the more sensitive tropicals, might not survive, esp. if they aren't established. Even then, in a milder climate zone like the SF Bay Area, many of those will come back again from the roots.
A few examples...
In the freeze of 1998, (19F for over a week...my pond even stayed frozen!) my 15 yr. old lemon turned black and defoliated, but as soon as it warmed up, here came new foliage. Hibiscus will go deciduous, but comes back again. Bananas often turn black, but push out new growth in spring/early summer.

Personally, I'm a zone pusher, but I usually try to plant the really sensitive things close to the house, under eaves or evergreen trees or surround them with hardier plantings that offer a bit of protection or warmer microclimate.

So, that's just my 2 cents worth. I think people worry too much and think plants are "frosted" that are just going into normal dormancy or think sensitive plants are "dead" when they're just experiencing temps too cold to keep their foliage.

wanda


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

My problem is I am trying to grow fruit that needs to stay on the tree in winter, or ripen in winter. Plants like citrus and bananas. I would definitely never try bananas here. For ornamentals your right Wanda, they will come back in spring.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

I agree with Wanda. Although are you talking about the Freeze of 1990? We got down to 20F and our pool was also frozen over, and that lasted about a week. I don't recall 1998 being freakishly cold like that, at least not in our neck of the woods. Where do you live, anyway? Curious.

I've never had daylilies defoliate, but I agree that some plants could be deemed "deciduous" in a climate with occasional frosts, even though in their native habitats they are evergreen. That doesn't mean they can't be enjoyed here. In British Columbia, the city of Vancouver plants all sorts of palms and bananas near their waterfront, certainly with freeze damage in winter, but they come back in spring. The cold only damages the aesthetic of the plant, but not its health overall.

That being said, a lot of tropical plants have hardier strains, and we've had tremendous luck with sticking to those rather than the more tender ones. Instead of the pink hibiscus, for example, we'll do the hardier classic red, which tolerates enough frost to handle our winter. We've planted musa basjoo instead of other banana varieties, and we typically get zero leaf burn where others would have defoliated. We plant "San Diego Red" bougainvillea instead of the coral color ones, because it's also really tough and vigorous.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Kerrican, I'm in the San Jose Area and on second thought, it may have been 1999 and in January.


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

The only plant that I am sure will suffer frost damage from a normal winter( not a hundred year freeze like Dec. 1990 ) is my Brugmansias. I have found that the damage will be minimal if the foliage is mostly cut back. Unfortunatly they are usually in bloom when the frosty weather arrives. Still it is better to cut it back and start new plants with the prunings. The bare stalks will stand more cold without the foliage. Al


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RE: Half dead plants from freeze what to do?

Hi everyone,

I feel much better know...I think. I am a relatively new home owner and have dreamed of a creating a fabulous garden. So, over the last few years, I have planted, pruned, fertilized, etc. and the result, pretty fabulous = )

Just two weeks ago I was sitting in the hammock, looking at my trumpet tree, with its new foliage, just so happy with the 70 degree + weather. Last Saturday, when I walked out into the garden...wow...shriveled and brown.

So it sounds like the sage advice, is do nothing, no pruning and wait. It seems as though there are differing opinions on watering. Any feedback?

I have disteca, wisteria, cannas, citrus, the sad trumpet I mentioned earlier, grasses. If anyone has specific advice, I sure would be grateful.

As a new gardner, I have learned my lesson to pay more attention to zones. It sounds like the Western Garden Book should be on my book shelf...


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