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Waiting game is best with most cold-damaged plants

Help palms, wait on others

Q: I have the following plants that have been damaged from the cold spell. Any advice on what to do to save them would be greatly appreciated!

Palms: Adonidia and travelers I know are not cold hardy and got quite damaged; robellini, a little bit; queen, not that much.

Others: Mexican petunias, tai, arboricola and ixoras are bad; corkscrew crotons and bird of paradise have medium damage.

John Zatko, South Tampa

A: Let's start with the palms. Leave the fronds on. Anything, even partially green, will help photosynthesize and help overall. A good idea on your Phoenix roebellini and adonidia is to spray a copper-based fungicide into the growing point. If in a couple of weeks the bud spear pulls out, the palm is probably history. The queen should be fine. The rest of your plant material will be a wait-and-see. No pruning now. Most will come back low to the ground. As they push out new growth in late February or early March, prune back to that point. Wait!

Patience is the rule

Q: Because of the recent cold weather, most of my plants that are in the ground are looking mighty dead. I have jatropha, caladiums, crotons, schefflera, hibiscus, heliconias and a few others. When do I cut back the tops? How much do I cut back to see if they will return to their previous state of beauty!

Thanks for your help. I am sick looking at what happened, but I know others are in the same boat.

Judy McNamee

A: In reference to your landscape that is now earth tones instead of shades of green: SIT TIGHT! It is okay to cut your caladiums and heliconias down to the ground, for they will re-emerge later in spring, but winter is not over. Your other softwood plants are better left alone until they begin to resprout, probably mid to late February. If you prune back to green wood now and we get some warm weather the plants will sprout and if we catch another freeze you're liable to lose the plant. Also, your plants will continue to die back some from the last freeze. You are liable to end up pruning two to three times to find stable green wood if you prune now. In a few weeks, scratch the outer bark with your fingernail until you see green. Then prune back to that point, fertilize, irrigate and your landscape will be back in no time. Be patient!

Have arborist check tree

Q: I have a concern regarding a huge laurel oak growing in our postage-stamp-sized subdivision lot. How can we help prevent it from falling during a storm? It has a huge, strong single trunk, but we worry about allowing branches to become too thick with foliage. Also, in the past decade, we've noticed three or four large roots have begun to push to the surface of the ground around the tree. Does this pose an immediate problem or is it a concern down the road?

Deb Ponedel, Hudson

A: Since trees are the largest investment in your landscape, it's always a good idea to have an annual survey of large trees conducted by a certified arborist. Look for the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) logo when selecting an arborist. Specifically concerning the laurel oak, these have a tendency to grow very quickly, which results in weak branches and too many of them. Some thinning most likely will be required, but never cut off the top parts of the tree. The large roots that you see are called buttress or flair roots and are good to see for they will anchor your tree well during winds and storms. These roots should not be severed.

Need help?

Enter Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles, who for more than 30 years educated gardeners through the Pinellas Technical Education Centers. He answers questions about landscape and garden pests. E-mail your questions to or to (put Dr. Hort in the subject line). Mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe your problem in full, and include your name and contact information. If possible, include a photo. We will print his advice on Saturdays in HomeLink.


It's not as bad

as it seems

Looking out at our brown yards is painful, but the best advice is to do nothing, at least not yet. For more stories on dealing with cold-damaged plants, go to

Waiting game is best with most cold-damaged plants 01/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 3:30am]
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