Frost Damage – Fighting the Urge to Prune

We are under a weather advisory here in the north west of Georgia. Icy road conditions! 🥶 The constant wind and now this cold spell is certainly trying us. Needless to say, the resilience of our plants is being tested. Sadly, some of them will have frost damage. Frost damage occurs when the outside air temperature hits 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) or below, it causes the water both inside and outside plant cells to freeze. The ice within the plant punctures the plant’s cells, which causes the death of that part of the plant.

Although it is tempting to remove frost-damaged plant growth immediately, do not do it. We know it does not look attractive, we know your babies are vulnerable, but the best that you can do for them right now is to let them be (if you cannot bring them inside of course). If you can bring them in, extreme care needs to be taken to acclimate it or the plant can suffer a shock. That is certainly another post.

The dead material should be left on the plant until the full extent of the damage is apparent in the spring for several reasons. First, by allowing plenty of time for new growth to appear, the extent of any damage will be clearly apparent, and it will be less likely that you will accidentally remove living tissue that survived a freeze. You could literally be removing the plant’s only chance at surviving. Fight the urge!  Second, dead material can provide an insulating effect. Removing it too soon may expose additional tissues to future freezes. If you prune out dead material before another freeze hits, it is more likely that an even greater portion of the plant will be killed.

Tip: Once you see new growth, you can cut away the dead growth up to the first leaf bud that you see, leaving the new leaves and buds to flourish.

If you are considering asking for help with your spring pruning, give us a call. We are here to assist you with all of your landscaping needs.

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