Gardening after a freeze

By Lee Rouse, LS AgCenter

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Temperatures are now well above freezing. If any potted plants were brought inside to protect them from the cold, they may now be brought back outdoors. Of course, if our area happens to get another freeze, you will need to bring these plants back inside. Potted plants do not mind being brought in and out as the weather dictates.

Before pruning any freeze-damaged plants, make a distinction between herbaceous perennials and woody tropicals. Be sure to wait at least a week or more after a freeze to begin pruning herbaceous or non-woody tropical, such as cannas, elephant ears, birds-of-paradise, begonias, gingers or philodendrons. If these plants have dead foliage, you may prune to the living area. Keep in mind this sort of pruning is to simply clean up the look of the garden.

If you decide not to prune dead foliage after a freeze, then be sure to add this task to your spring cleanup list. These herbaceous perennials should have their dead parts removed after danger of the last freeze or before they begin to make substantial new growth.

It is generally a good idea to delay pruning woody tropical plants, such as hibiscus, tibouchina, angel trumpet, croton, ixora or schefflera, until new growth begins to emerge in spring. This will allow you to more accurately determine the living and the dead material. If any of these plants or other woody tropicals have dead leaves lingering after a freeze, there is no problem with removing them.

This was the first freeze of the 2017/2018 winter. There could still be more to come as we move further into winter. If your tropicals survived this freeze fairly unscathed, you want to consider taking additional precaution now rather than the night of the next freeze. Be sure all tender garden material is well mulched and irrigated before any freeze event. Now is also a good time to stock up on winter frost cloth. Old bed sheets work just fine, but local nurseries sell a product designed to help keep the plants slightly warmer than what an old bed sheet will.