Will Your Plants Recover from the Winter Freeze this Spring?
Due to the arctic blast that swept across most of the United States in December 2022, many Georgia residents have been asking the question: “Will my plants recover from the December freeze this spring?”
Since the Simply Green team is trained in offering plant healthcare services, we thought it might be helpful to share our answer to the question, which is… “It depends!” There are several factors that play into whether or not your plants survived the freeze.
This blog will take a look at some of those factors as well as actions you can take to nurse your plants back to health.
Factors Determining Your Plant’s Likelihood of Survival
Given the types of plants that thrive in Georgia landscapes, it’s safe to say that most of them were affected by the freeze in some way. The severity of the damage relies on several factors including:
Type of Plant
Plant type plays a large role in whether your plant will recover from the December freeze. Plants that are cold hardy and plants that are woody are more likely to have survived the freeze than plants that thrive in warm climates and plants that have soft, fleshy stems or foliage.
You can use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine your plant’s tolerance for cold weather. This map separates the United States into zones based on the average lows its climate will face in a given winter.
Here’s how you can use the map to determine how likely your plant was able to tolerate the freeze.
Step 1 – Identify the plant’s household name or species name (e.g. Acer japonicum… or Japanese Maple).
Step 2 – Determine the coldest zone in which the plant is recommended to be grown. Do this by Googling, “which zones can [INSERT PLANT] be grown?” If a range is given, select the lowest zone number.
Step 3 – Identify the coldest temperature your plant can endure. Look at the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine the lowest average temperature your plant’s coldest zone can reach. The map’s legend will list a range of cold temperatures for each zone. The lowest average temperature will be the lowest temperature in the range provided.
Step 4 – Compare the coldest temperature your plant can endure with the average temperature of the freeze. In most parts of Central and Northern Georgia, the freeze averaged about 5-16 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 5 – Draw your conclusion. If your plant is known to tolerate temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit, like hostas, then it’ll be fine. However if it is known to only tolerate temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit, like jasmine, then it might be at risk.
*Note: Most of Georgia falls between zones 7 and 8 (average lows between 0 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit). If your plant is native to Georgia or are known to thrive in zones 7 and 8, then there’s a good chance it will recover in the spring.
Plants receiving direct sunlight for longer periods of time have a greater chance of surviving the freeze than plants growing in shaded areas or that receive sunlight for short periods of time.
This is because plants that received more sunlight had a better chance at thawing out faster than those receiving less sunlight.
If your plant in question receives full sun for several hours throughout the day, it may have a shot at recovering this spring.
Moisture Level of the Plant’s Soil
Though the initial thought might be that moisture will damage the plant because it will turn into ice during a freeze, the opposite is true.
Just as water serves as a barrier against heat on a summer day, it also provides insulation for plants during cold temperatures.
There are a few factors that contribute to the moisture level of the soil your plant is in.
Pot vs Ground
Because pots contain a finite amount of soil, they tend to dry out quicker than the ground. If your plant was potted, there’s a good chance that its soil was dry during the freeze – which hurts your plant’s chances of recovering in the spring. If the plant in question is planted in the ground, then it may have a better chance of surviving the winter.
Mulch and Pine Straw
In addition to providing insulation from cold temperatures, mulch and pine straw also serve as a barrier trapping moisture in the ground below.
If your plant in question is in a landscaped bed with mulch or pine straw, it has a better chance of coming back this spring.
Watering and Irrigation
If you have experience with winter gardening or managing landscapes in the winter, you might’ve known to water your plants before the freeze. If you watered your plants before the freeze, then they have a better chance of recovering this spring!
What You Can Do to Help Your Plants
If your plants are looking wilted, withered, and brown; then you may be wondering what you can do to improve their chances of regaining life this spring and thriving in the summer. Here are some steps you can take to nurse your plants back to health.
While unsightly, some freeze damage is expected this time of year, and we are likely to experience another freeze before winter is officially over. You might be tempted to grab your pruners and start cutting everything back but pruning triggers new growth which is much more susceptible to cold temperatures.
Allowing freeze-damaged foliage to remain will help insulate plants and protect against further cold damage this winter. If you notice slimy or mushy foliage or stems, you can remove the affected areas to prevent fungal growth.
Prune when the Time is Right
Once we get past the threat of frost (which in Georgia is typically mid-April), you can assess any damage and prune as needed.
When pruning, you will want to clip off the stems that aren’t showing any new growth. If the entire plant isn’t showing any signs of new growth, give it more time before declaring it dead.
You can give your landscape plants a much needed boost this spring hand help them kick off the a strong recovery by applying a balanced fertilizer. If you’re unsure which balance of fertilizer to use or how much fertilizer to use on each plant, consider working with a professional plant healthcare team.
About Simply Green’s Plant Healthcare Service
Landscape plants, unlike lawns, mature slowly often over the course of many years. Damage or malnutrition can sometimes take a growing season or more to correct. For this reason, it is best to treat landscape plants proactively to ensure that they will grow to their full potential.
Simply Green Lawn Care Plus provides an annual plant health care plan to help your landscape plants thrive at your home. Below is a brief schedule of the service offerings:
- Winter – Horticultural Oil (dormant oil) Foliar application to help control any existing insects and prevent any existing insect eggs from hatching next spring.
- Early Spring – Apply a slow release balanced fertilizer with micronutrients and wetting agent. This is a liquid soil drench application. Provides season long fertilization and prevents insects.
- Spring – Using Integrated pest management (IPM) we inspect your plants for potential damaging insects and disease. We only treat plants that require treatment which minimize use.
- Summer – Continue to use Integrated pest management to treat your plants for insects and disease.
- Late Summer – Continue to use Integrated pest management to treat your plants for insects and disease.
- Fall – We apply a bio-stimulate package to help your plants recover from the summer and prepare for winter.
- Late Fall – Horticulture Oil (dormant oil) Foliar application to help control any existing insects and prevent any existing insect eggs from hatching.
About Simply Green Lawn Care
Simply Green aims to provide the highest quality lawn care, mosquito control, and lawn pest control services to Georgia residents.
We are locally owned and operated which allows us to be accessible, attentive, and responsive for customers in Georgia.
Our well-trained team is easy to work with and determined to exceed expectations.
All our plant health care specialists are Georgia Department of Agriculture Certified and maintain their Category 24 applicators license.
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