In my last article I talked about what you can do to protect your landscape plants from the cold weather we were expecting. Many of you did a good job and will have minimal problems if you were diligent in protecting your plants during each night of the cold weather but some of you were not. Now I am going to tell you what you need to know and do after the freeze.
The first thing you need to know is that this cold weather is one of the earliest freezes we have had. Remember, this is only the beginning of December and normally the cold weather does not hit us until January. We have had freezes right up to the last week of February so please remain vigilant in your efforts to protect your plants. I know it’s hard to keep pulling out the blankets and protecting the plants but if you keep your efforts up you will be rewarded with healthy plants this spring.
After the freeze daytime temperatures normally rise and those of you that used plastic to wrap your plant will need to remove the plastic to avoid burning the plants foliage. Plastic reflects the heat of the sun and if these types of covers are left on the plant you can do more damage to the leaves. Blankets, FrostPruf, or foam are ok to leave on the plants if freezing weather is expected the following night. Unfortunately, Florida’s climate usually warms up quickly following a freeze necessitating us to remove these covers only to reapply them a week later when the next front approaches. Hopefully, we will only have to do this a few times. Potted plants, orchids, or small plants which are able to be moved should be kept in a protected area during this time.
Plants like Schefflera, Ficus, or Bananas which show freeze damage should not be pruned following the freeze. Pruning plants after a freeze can have undesirable effects on plants. The first thing you need to worry about is that if you prune a plant after a freeze, the plant could send out new tender shoots which could be badly injured in the event of another freeze. The second thing is that when leaves freeze they tend to wrap the stem protecting the mother plant from additional cold weather. If the time frame between freezes is more than a few weeks away and the leaves which are frozen dry out completely, then it is ok to trim the dead leaves away.
Palm trees like the Chamaedoreas, Foxtails, Coconuts, and Anodidias (Christmas Palms) do not like the cold weather and can be killed if not properly protected. These types of palms can be severely injured due to freezing weather or temperatures below 45 degrees for extended periods of time. Many of these palms were severely injured during last year’s cold weather and few have yet to recover. Because of their size they are very hard to protect against the cold. Those of you that still wish to plant these palms in your yard can take a few simple steps to ensure your palm survives. Plant these palms in a protected southern exposure possibly near a corner of the home. During the cold weather the blocks of the house will radiate heat stored during the day towards the plant. Another suggestion would be to plant them on the southern edge of your pool or spa. During the night heat will be released off the waters surface which may help to protect these palms.
Some people think that adding additional fertilizer to the plants or lawn following a freeze will helps your plants recover quicker. This is wrong! Additional fertilizer following a freeze can force your plants to push out new tender growth which can be injured by additional freezes. You should fertilize your plants and turf grass in the fall with a winterizing fertilizer. This type of fertilizer contains additional potassium (The last number on a bag of fertilizer) which helps the roots of the plants to withstand the cooler temperatures and further allows the plant to recover faster once temperature rise. Do continue to provide your plants water on your regular watering schedule. Remember to adjust your time clock on your sprinkler to abide by the current watering restrictions and only water enough to satisfy the plants needs. Standing water around plants following your watering schedule can cause root rots.
Finally, take to heart that this is only the first of many freezes we can expect this year. Be aware, planting the right plant in the right place can save you heartaches in the years to come. Look to publications such as Landscape Plants for Subtropical Climates by Bijan Dehgan for listing of plants commonly grown in our area and their hardiness zones.
Hope this news helps you and your plants! Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Remember without plants, we wouldn’t be here!