So, What Do You Do With Cold Damaged Plants?

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

frozen hostasLast week, most of Wilkes County was exposed to freezing conditions with temperatures averaging in the mid 20’s. These temperatures damaged the apple, peach and nectarine crops and damaged plants that were just beginning to put out new growth. So what, if anything, should local gardeners do to help plants recover from the recent freezing conditions?

If you put out your tomato and pepper plants before the cold weather, you probably have dead plants now. Succulent plants like tomatoes will not recover from cold damage and that is the reason many gardeners wait until the end of April to put out their gardens.

Most of the fruit buds on the trees in my yard are dead. They are still hanging in the trees, but soon they will dry up and drop off. For those gardeners that are thinking about spraying their trees, I would recommend waiting a couple of weeks to see if any fruit has survived. If there are fruit still on the tree at that time then it is still not too late to begin spraying.

I have noticed that the new growth on my Japanese maples looks wilted and damaged. Do not over react and think that the tree is dead. The trees may drop some leaves, but they should put out new growth once the weather warms up consistently. Individual dead twigs or branches will become more apparent over time and should be pruned out.

The hostas in my yard are also showing signs of freeze damage to the leaves. The tips of the leaves look dead while the lower portion of the leaves look fine. You should cut off the dead areas, as this can be an entryway for diseases.

Two main things to keep in mind about freeze damaged plants, utilize patience and keep the plant from being stressed. Some plants may take longer than others to recover, so give them time to heal. While they are healing, make sure they have adequate water to keep from being stressed. Adding mulch around the plant and a light fertilizer application will also help the plant deal with any injuries.