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What to Expect Post Freeze from Your Trees and Large Shrubs

Spring has sprung and we are seeing new, green foliage on many plants, shrubs, trees and flowers. But the memory of the hard freeze we experienced is still fresh. Many of our clients has asked what the potential effect of those temperatures will have on their trees and palms in the coming months and years. While the truth of the matter is that time will tell in many instances, Texas A&M University recently released some really good, plant specific guidance on what to expect in the coming months. You can find the full article here.

Evergreen Woody Shrubs (abelia, Asian jasmine, azaleas, banana shrub, camellias, Elaeagnus, fatsia, fig ivy, gardenias, Indian hawthorn, Japanese blueberry, Ligustrum, loquat, loropetalum, oleander, pittosporum, privet, sasanquas, sweet olive, Texas sage, viburnum, wax myrtle, etc.): Wait until they start to resprout from the existing stems or the ground, then cut away dead and leave what is alive and growing. Split stems will be dead. There will most likely be no blooms this year and all old foliage will most likely fall off. Many of these plants are from milder parts of southeastern Asia and simply aren’t used to zero degrees. Most broadleaf evergreens prefer milder climates while narrow leafed evergreens and deciduous plants are more adapted to colder climates.

Roses: Many roses in Texas and the South have taken a severe hit and will have varying degrees of freeze damage. At first glance it appears that many will freeze back to and resprout from the snow line. Hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, polyanthas, and modern shrub roses like Knockouts and Drifts are considered more cold hardy while uniquely Southern roses like Teas, Chinas, Noisettes, Banksias, etc. will have suffered the most damage. Once you see which stems are brown/dead and which stems are green and resprouting, cut them back with loppers or hand pruners, sprinkle a bit of lawn fertilizer, and they should look nice again by fall.

Vines: Native vines like coral honeysuckle and crossvine may be just fine while others like Carolina jessamine and confederate jasmine may be damaged. Still others like coral vine and creeping fig may have been killed. English ivy may have had foliage damage only. Once you see the stems split open and the plants resprout, cut them back to that point, even if it’s at the ground.

Magnolias: Other than ice damage to southern magnolias, they appear to be fine like many native plants are. Deciduous magnolias lost their flower buds but will be fine.

Palm Trees and Sago “Palms”: Many will be damaged or dead but do nothing but cut off the dead fronds for now. It will take months to see if they resprout. Historically the only palms reliably cold hardy here in northeast Texas and the only ones to survive zero degrees in the 1980s were Mexican/Texas sabal palms, Brazoria palms, dwarf palmettos, and a number of windmill palms. All others froze and died. Sagos aren’t true palms, are less cold hardy, and back then were only cold hardy from I-10 south.

Fruit trees: Most are cold hardy except citrus, pomegranates, olives, and figs which will have varying degrees of damage and death. Most citrus above I-10 will have severe damage. Once again, do nothing for now and prune back to live growth when they sprout. Open flowers and fat buds on blueberries, peaches, and pears froze, but the trees should be alive and sprout as normal. Unfortunately, fruit production will be limited. I’d think blackberries will be fine.

Live oaks: All foliage will be lost which would have been lost when the new foliage came out in spring anyway. There however many be varying degrees of damage including death like there was in Dallas during the 1980s when all the bark eventually popped off, but once again nothing you can do right now but take a cold tater and wait. Live oaks are coastal trees not used to zero-degree weather. Friend Neil Sperry says they’ll be fine, so we’ll all hope for the best!

Pines: Pine in some areas have turned brown. This is mostly likely just freeze damage to the needles, but the buds and stems should be fine. Our native pines along with all our other native plants have learned to survive periodic Arctic blasts. Note that nature made sure that short leaf pine occurred further north, loblolly pine with medium length needles occurred farther south, and longleaf pine occurred the most south. It’s all about holding up to ice and snow but all have always been cold hardy here for thousands of years.

There is absolutely nothing you can do to speed up this freeze damage/healing process. Watering, pruning, or fertilizing won’t make it happen any quicker. Most work now is purely cosmetic. The solution is warm nights, warm days, and longer day lengths. Once the plants start to grow (or not), we will know the answer and what parts to cut away or which plants to replace. Some damage doesn’t show up for months and some plants that appear dead come back to life from the root system. Some plants with green stems like roses will show what’s dead even quicker and can be cut back sooner. The stems on others will split to show that they are damaged. Remember just cut off the stems as the roots may still be alive.

If any of your large shrubs or trees have you concerned, our team of Certified Arborists are her to help. Simple click below to book an evaluation or give us a call with any questions. Your trees are our business!