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Timely tendings: Treating freeze-damaged plants

This winter's freezes have left many of our landscape plants nearly dead or dead. Many of the woody plants will recover even if they must regrow from the roots. Herbaceous plants like bananas, impatiens, gingers and begonias may look like they have melted. It is best to remove these plants as soon as possible. Leave the roots. Bananas, gingers and some other herbaceous plants may sprout from their roots.

You can prune woody plants damaged by freezing temperatures — wait until March 1, generally considered the end of freeze weather — if you are seeing new growth emerging from the stems. Gently scrape the bark from the bare stems with a fingernail in a small area. If the cambium, the layer just under the bark, is green, the stem is still alive and should start new growth when the weather is warm enough. If the area under the bark is brown or black, then that part of the stem or branch is dead. Try an area closer to the base of the plant. Even if all of the branches have died, there is a good chance that the plant will sprout from the roots.

Damaged shrubs can benefit from fertilization to encourage growth and recovery. For more information, go to the University of Florida/IFAS extension website at, where you'll find fertilizing tips for landscape plants as well as information about many other aspects of the landscape. Also consult our county's fertilizer ordinance requirements as well, as you may have restrictions. Responsible fertilization protects our valuable waterways and ecosystems.

Many palms were also damaged by the freezing temperatures. By treating the growing point (bud) with a copper fungicide, you may be able to save the palm from extensive damage or death. You can also read more about treating cold-damaged palms at the UF/IFAS website.

Information from Carol Suggs and Theresa Badurek of the Pinellas County Extension Service and from the Hillsborough County Extension Gardening Almanac. Go to the extension websites at and

Timely tendings: Treating freeze-damaged plants 02/04/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 4, 2011 3:30am]
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