Wow! We've had frigid weather! Are my plants ok?
One of the beautiful things about living in this area of Georgia is the weather. However, we experienced abnormally cold temperatures for our zone, called a flash freeze. Meteorologists say a flash freeze occurs when the temperature drops very quickly from above freezing to well below freezing. We experienced temperatures as low as 7 degrees and extreme wind chills.
We are receiving calls from customers seeing the effects on their landscape and asking how to care for their plants. The results of this weather may range from cosmetic damage to plant death. It may take weeks or months to show how much damage has been done to the plant. So, we will give you some basic information & care guidelines.
Even though Winter annuals like pansies & other ornamentals are cold hardy, they have been impacted. When temperatures fall below 10 degrees for an extended time, and the ground and containers freeze, the roots can't absorb water. Ice will form in the plant cell, and the cells rupture, causing damage and death to the plant tissue. Many plants may be dead and need to be removed. If you want to wait and see if they survived, remove any foliage that has become mushy and soft. With warmer temperatures, if they are alive, you will see new growth. However, it will take several months for them to recover and look pretty again.
Trees and Shrubs:
First and most importantly, BE PATIENT. If you notice that your plants have suffered from the freeze, don't grab the pruners and start cutting everything back. Pruning encourages growth, but you don't want to promoth new growth that may be damaged by another cold snap and further stress the plant.
If you are concerned that branches have died, you can do the scratch test. Using your fingernail or a knife, lightly scratch the bark; if you see green, the branch is alive. Let's say, for instance, you have 10 inches of dieback on a branch. You can prune back 6-8 inches, but you want to avoid pruning the branch back into the green. As mentiond, you will stimulate the plant to grow and run the risk of damage by another cold snap, further stressing the plant. Branches that are broken can be removed.
We are seeing partial defoliation and leaf discoloration. Again, wait to start pruning; wait until new Spring growth emerges and cut out branches that don't leaf back out. Ideally, plants will shed damaged leaves, and new ones will emerge in the Spring. Landscapes may start looking pretty bad before they recover. It will be hard to look at, and you will want to do something, but the best thing you can do is have patience.
If trees haven't leafed out by April or May, do a scratch test to check for viability. Using your fingernail or a knife, lightly scratch the bark; if you see green, the plant is alive. If brown, that portion of the branch/stem may be dead. Prune the branch/stem back until you see green to promote growth.
Other damage that often concerns homeowners are frost cracks young trees or those with thin bark. While only sometimes visible in Spring, frost cracks are a results of sudden drops in nighttime temperature following the daytime heating from the sun. However, unless these cracks are torn or ragged, they will heal themselves.
Wait to fertilize until closer to Spring, as new growth emerges, and pruning has been done. The type of fertilizer will depend on the plant. For annuals, you can use a time-release Osmocote or Espoma Plant Tone. For trees and shrubs, a slow release 10-10-10, Espoma Holly Tone for acid-loving plants, or Jobe's Tree Spikes. You can also use Espoma's Plant Tone for shrubs and perennials.
EXAMPLES OF DAMAGE YOU MAY SEE ON YOUR PLANTS
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68 Zion Church Road
Braselton, GA 30517
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