Texas A&M horticulturist gives advice for freeze-damaged plants
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KLTV) - As temperatures warm, East Texans are still seeing the effects of a brutal December hard freeze that extensively damaged plants. One expert is saying we must resist the urge to prune back damaged plants, for their own good.
Few plants were spared from the Christmas week freeze, and what was left, for many, was unpleasant to look at.
“We get the early damage on plants here. We get rapid changes in temperature and often get damage to our garden plants,” said Texas A&M University Horticulture Professor Mike Arnold, PhD.
But, cutting away a damaged area now is a bad idea.
“One of our first reactions is to get in there and clean that up, make it look good again,” Arnold said.
While some may consider pruning back the damaged areas, Arnold said to let it stay the way it is, at least for a while.
“Tissue that’s remaining there on the plants can serve as an insulator as we experience additional cold events. I will say that a lot of people will prematurely remove plants after they’ve had cold damage. Often times they’ll come back from the root systems,” he said.
Pruning back a plant, shrub or tree that’s been damaged by a hard freeze can actually put the plant’s future growth or even survival at risk.
“If we prune away too early on plants that might be damaged, like shrubs, we’ll stimulate the growth of the dormant buds below that, and that tissue is very susceptible to damage. You may end up depleting the reserves that might be there for the following spring,” according to the professor.
Arnold’s advice: live with the ugly.
“It’s only January, so we’re likely to have some more weather events,” he said.
Arnold said there are exceptions. If it’s a cabbage or kale plant that’s freeze damaged, you can prune those back because of the sulphur compounds in the plants that give off a foul odor when rotting.
The best protection is to cover plants before an expected freeze.
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