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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Now What - After the Freeze
DSCN9136-1.JPGHere we go again, more freeze damaged landscape plants. As with last winter, all hope is not lost.  Most of the damaged woody plants damaged last winter recovered nicely over the past year, so we will most likely see the same recovery in the coming year.  Plants that have been damaged by the cold will look wilted, the leaves might turn brown and die, and some plants can look melted.  Resist the temptation to start pruning these plants back.  The damaged leaves help to insulate damaged plants from frost and further injury.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to be patient and wait until spring before pruning.  Even I am so tempted to prune the sad looking plants in my landscape. 

It is possible that we can still have another frost or freeze event before spring comes.  The brown leaves on plants such as plumbago, croton, hibiscus, gold mound Duranta, Ixora, and firebush will help protect the plant in another cold snap.  If some sprouts appear during warmer weather, the dead leaves can offer some protection.  Almost all of these plants will sprout new growth in the spring.  Even if a plant is dead to the ground, it might recover from the roots.  We did not have weather cold enough to freeze the ground in most of Florida.  Fertilizer and/or water will not improve the condition of these plants.  Again, be patient. 
The exception to the ‘no pruning’ rule is herbaceous plants, such as bananas, coleus, impatiens, gingers and begonias. They have collapsed and need to just be cut down and removed. This will reduce fungal or bacterial problems as these dead plants decay. Banana plants will usually send up new pups from the root system in the spring.  Large banana stalks can be cut about midway down to the roots.  If you see healthy light green tissue in the middle of the stem, it might sprout from this point.  If the interior of the stalk is brown, cut back further down the stalk until you find healthy tissue. 

Many cold sensitive palms planted in our area have been damaged by the freezing temperatures. If your palms have brown crowns, it is very important that you spray the bud with Copper fungicide.  This will kill any fungus that starts to grow on dying tissue. This fungus can kill the bud. Palms only have one growing point, or bud, and when it is dead, the palm is dead.  Please reference the UF/IFAS Extension publication Treating Cold Damaged Palms at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG318 for complete directions.

You may also find that your lawn has been damaged by freezing temperatures especially in open or exposed areas. Our most common lawn grass, Floratam St. Augustine, is the most sensitive to cold temperatures. Zoysia, Bermuda and Bahia grass go dormant and are more cold tolerant. Grass blades turn brown or burnt looking following a hard freeze or the blades can look wilted, then turn whitish and then black. All might not be lost – but you will have to wait until spring to really know for sure. Cold damage initially looks like drought stress, but adding too much water while the grass is nearly dormant is not necessary and will waste water resources. Let the brown leaf blades remain and skip mowing until the grass is actually growing. The dead blades can provide insulation from future cold for healthy rhizomes growing close to the ground. Postpone spring fertilization until you see some re-growth of the turf indicating that the grass can utilize the fertilizer.  More information can be found in the University of Florida (UF)/IFAS Extension publication Low Temperature Damage to Turf at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/LH067

I know that it is hard to wait when there is unsightly damage in the landscape, but winter is probably not finished with us yet.  The end of February is when we should see some significant recovery – Be patient.
5:58 pm est          Comments

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cold Protection for Landscape Plants
Here we go again – we might experience freezing temperatures here in north Pinellas County tonight and/or tomorrow night.  This could turn out to be damaging for our landscapes.  We have had some frost and below freezing temperatures in our immediate area of north Pinellas County.  

Cold sensitive plants in pots should be moved into a protected garage or inside.  Orchids and other tropical plants fall into this category.  Those that cannot be moved should be covered with old blankets, sheets or frost cloth.  The covering must come all the way to the ground - the objective is to capture any heat in the soil before it radiates back to the sky at night. 
Water plants well before covering them (moist soil retains more heat and well hydrated plants can suffer less damage).  Water them and then cover them before dark.  If temperatures fall below freezing for 3 hours or more, covering may not help.  Many of our woody plants might lose all of their leaves from freezing temperatures, but they should leaf out in the spring with some die back. 
The following plants are just a short list of those that should be covered:  Hibiscus, Crotons, Ti plant, Ixora, Allamanda, Duranta (Gold Mound), Plumbago, Impatiens (to protect from frost - freezing will kill them), geraniums, begonias, bromeliads, gingers, heliconia, and Crown of thorns.  Bananas are very cold sensitive and may freeze back to the ground, but the roots should send up new sprouts in the spring.  Here is a link for more information on cold protection of landscape plants:
Common palms that can be damaged by freezing temperatures include: Pygmy date, Bismark, Adonidia, Royal, Foxtail, Areca and Coconut among others. It usually takes temperatures in the mid 20s to completely kill these palms, but the fronds may turn brown and die.  If this happens, research at the Univ. of Fl. has shown that treating the growing area (bud at the top) with a copper fungicide can help palms recover.  For more information, you can access their publication "Treating Cold Damaged Palms" on the Internet at: 
It is important to know the hardiness zone of your palms and other landscape plants.  Here in north Pinellas County, we are in zone 9b.  If you are lucky to live near the Gulf, Tampa Bay, or one of our many lakes and ponds, your temperatures will be moderated by this water.  This can help to reduce cold damage to landscape plants.

If your plants do loose all of their leaves, resist the urge to prune them now.  Wait until at least the middle of February. Plants should start to put our new leaves then and you can tell how much you will need to prune back.

Stay warm,
8:10 pm est          Comments

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Pampered Gardeners LLC * Oldsmar, FL * USA *  Phone: 727 483-3783 * pam@pamperedgardeners.com