For those of you still waiting patiently to see how your plants fair after the freeze, kudos to you! It’s been a hard wait, and for many plants, the wait isn’t over yet. Experts in the horticulture world want us to know that it may take weeks, and for some plants, months to truly see the extent of some damage.

Sorry if you are tired of hearing this but many customers are still needing the answer so here it is again, “No, there really isn’t anything you can do to speed up the healing/recovery process of your plants. It just takes regular watering and time in warm weather. That’s it plain and simple.

It’s a bit tough for us to give you advice as to whether or not your plants have survived the freeze or not without allowing them ample time to recover. (Also, we don’t know how, or if, you protected them.) Just because it is brown, does not mean it is dead. Do you see what I’m getting at here? We just don’t know at this point.

Factors like the many microclimates we have throughout our city and within our own landscapes make it even harder to be able to advise if plants will come back or not. You could have some plants that are completely unscathed and some that are demolished, just because of their location in your landscape. (One area is protected by a tree canopy, one area is more exposed to wind, one area is nestled in a trench, one area is right out in the open, etc…) 

After a freeze, plants may split stems and be damaged.
Stems that split from the freeze, will not recover. Travel down the stem towards the roots to look for fresh plant material. As we continue to have warm weather, any damage will become more evident.
Plants after a freeze need time to recover.
Give plants time to recover after a freeze so you can clearly see the difference between dead material and healthy material. It will make pruning correctly easier. 

What Can You Expect From Plants After A Deep Freeze?

Even if your plants do recover from the freeze, this year, you’ll most likely see a different plant than you are used to. We all may have to face certain realities about our plants due to the severe freeze. Let’s take a look at a few.

-Tropical perennials like bougainvillea may not start to put on new growth until early summer (or later). And even if it does start tot grow, you may not see any blooms until much later, if you see blooms at all this year! See what’s going on here?

-You shouldn’t expect to see much fruit this year from citrus or less hardy fruit trees like fig, avocado, etc… that were damaged by the freeze. You most likely won’t get fruit at all. If there is damage below the graft line of the citrus, it’s time to get a new one. Any fruit produced from a citrus tree that has been damaged below the graft line will be mouth-puckering sour orange. Blech!

-Evergreen woody shrubs that were damaged will most likely not bloom this year. New growth will sprout from the ground or current limbs, and at that time you can prune them.

-Damaged roses will probably not produce again until fall, wait to clearly see damage between dead and healthy plant material to prune.

-Many have asked about sago palms. You should only be cutting off dead fronds for now and wait for warm weather to see if they sprout from the center.

-Some perennials that survived might wait until summer or fall for blooms, and tropical perennials that normally take a bit longer to reemerge anyway (Pride of Barbados), could take much longer… IF they come back at all! BUT… it will all take time to tell.

Unfortunately, the name of the game is still: WAIT. What you will need to do is decide if you CAN wait. We understand the worry and frustration. If you have to wait until late spring or early summer to see if a plant is going to come back and it doesn’t, that puts you in a bad spot of planting when the heat of summer is about to hit. Not the ideal time to get a plant established.

If you don’t wait to see if it comes back and yank the plant out, you lose the money (and time, oh, the time) you invested in the original plant plus the money for a new plant. Those choices stink! And yet, they are the choices most of us are going to be facing.

When other plants freeze, you can use geraniums for color until the damaged plants grow back.
Container Gardening

The thing to realize is that there is always something to do while you’re waiting. This year might need to be considered a recovery year for many of our landscape specimens. We may have to allow them time to go through an “ugly duckling” stage in order to get back to their full potential. In the meantime, there are plenty of options to keep you busy and in touch with your inner gardener.

Fill up your landscape with inexpensive, yet colorful and impactful spring annuals. Plant them around those specimens waiting to wake up and their cheerful hues will give you hope as you wait for plant life to reappear. Build a raised bed for vegetables, grow an herb garden in a beautiful pot, plant that new shrub or tree specimen you’ve been debating about for awhile, finally replace some of your water-hungry turf with a groundcover, gather up all your fallen leaves for the compost pile, or hang some gorgeous baskets full of vibrant geraniums or mandevilla.

Whether you decide to wait it out, or pull them out, we aren’t here to judge you. I mean, we are in the business of selling plants after all. We just want you to have the info to make your own decisions. We are doing our best to bring fresh plant material into both of our Rainbow Gardens locations to help you replace plants damaged from the freeze. Whatever your gardening needs are, we hope to see you soon!

~The Happy Gardener, Lisa Mulroy