Frost and freezes occur under different conditions, but the damage they cause to plants is the same. In both cases, water inside plant cells freezes, puncturing cell walls. The actual layer of ice outside the plant in a frost doesn’t damage the plant; it’s the water freezing inside that does.
Damage may not be immediately evident, but frost and freeze damage is cumulative. The more freezing nights our plants are exposed to, the greater the chance of damage. With the proper cold damage care, they can bounce back from the cold even if they have been hit hard.
“Cold damage may look severe, but plants will usually recover.”
Cold Damaged Shrubs
First, you will see the leaves turning brown and dropping off; this is a normal and natural process for them to do. Don’t be alarmed if all that is left are branches and stems. The way to check if they are still alive is to scrape off the bark with your fingernail going all the way down to the base of the shrub. If you see green tissue, they are still alive. Also, remember the roots can still be alive, so don’t remove them right away.
Pruning Cold Damaged Shrubs
UF/IFAS recommends not to prune cold-damaged plants right away. The dead foliage looks bad, but will help insulate plants from further injury. In the spring, assess the extent of the damage by scraping the bark with your fingernail. Cold-injured wood will be black or brown under the bark. To be certain where to prune, wait until plants begin to sprout new growth.
A Chilled Lawn
You may notice your lawn turn brown; do not worry, this is perfectly normal for this time of year and is the grass’s normal response to stress. Bahia, St. Augustine grass, and ‘Empire’ Zoysiagrass are the most common, and all three will turn brown if they receive a hard freeze. Bahia will usually completely brownout, while St. Augustine grass and ‘Empire’ may have various patterns of brown and green. Some patterns may be more distinct than others may. Regardless, the grass is resting.
Applying nitrogen this time of year is not only a waste of time and money but may encourage more pests and problems during the growing season. We will begin regular fertilization come Spring.
Irrigating efficiently is also important, but remember, your lawn is resting. Overwatering this time of year will also encourage fungi and winter weeds.
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