Plant Care After The Big Freeze

Florist hydrangeas after the 18 degree temperatures last week

Viable buds where new foliage and blooms will develop in the spring

Florist hydrangeas tipped pruned and dead flowers removed

Boxwood after freeze with shoots that need to be removed

Unwanted shoots removed and attractive again

The freeze last week caught a lot of plants by surprise. Temperatures in the teens usually do not occur until January most years. So the result is that many of our plants are crisp. Crepe myrtle, tender evergreens, and many of our deciduous plants that exhibit some degree of fall color and had not dropped their leaves are crisp. I have observed cold burn on many of our evergreen plants like gardenia, too. Many of the injured evergreens, like the gardenias, we need to just leave alone, unless they just look so awful that they ruin you winter landscape. Others like our hydrangeas need pruning. Remember, florist hydrangeas should only be tip pruned and lightly shaped if necessary because their blooms appear on old wood. Peegee hydrangeas like “limelight” can be cut back as desired, but always remove the dead blooms. In the case of many of our evergreens that had stray or unattractive shoots like hollies and the boxwoods above, it is fine to remove these at their point of origin, but I would wait until late winter to do any major pruning. While I think all the injured plants, and the ones whose leaves were burned by the cold will recover, nature did throw us an early curve ball.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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