It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
We’ve just had a frost and there’s more of a nip in the air. (At least at the time I’m writing this.) But as much as we enjoy the colder weather, it has taken a toll on plants and shrubs. So, what do we do now?
Wait before cutting back frost-damaged leaves and limbs, and let them be for now. They won’t hurt anything, even though they look pretty sad.
We will notice the cold damage continuing for a short time, although the weather may be warming up. The wilted, brown leaves and limbs will not normally recover with warmer weather or watering. The tissue is damaged, but it doesn’t mean we have lost plants permanently. Wait out the winter.
If a plant is well established, it may make it through a mild Texas winter. We’ll have to wait and see what lies ahead.
It is always a good idea to mulch around the base of plants. This helps keep root systems protected, no matter what the top part of the plants look like. And we definitely have enough leaves beginning to fall to help pack around the landscape to act as nature’s blanket for roots. Compost and mulch are excellent materials to use.
Covering tender plants and shrubs with blankets and sheets might help protect the top portions of the plants. It will not completely keep away frost damage, but it may lessen it.
This might seem like a hassle, but while the nights are threatening to reach the freezing point and the days stay coo, you can leave your plants covered. Old sheets, towels and blankets allow the plants to breathe, and you don’t have to yank them off each morning.
Once daytime temperatures get higher, setting the covers aside and allowing the plants to get some sun will be best.
Until winter has come and gone, don’t start pruning or pulling up cold-damaged plants. Only when growth begins can you really see the extent of the damage to each plant. If our winter is mild, minimal pruning may be needed come springtime.
Let’s enjoy the holidays and wait to fret over limp leaves and bare limbs.
Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.