The first very cold snap of the New Year is now behind us. Temps dipped into the teens! What's dead, what's not dead, and what should we be doing with our cold-damaged plants?
Bill Finch of Mobile Botanical Gardens says while it was very cold, things could have been a lot worse. Plants that are traditional to the Gulf Coast came through the frigid mornings very well.
We may lose some leafy plants, the type without wood on them. But even some leafy plants may be okay. Bromeliads may have burned leaves, but will come back. Ornamental greens like mustard and chard may be laid flat, but don't give up on them just yet. Bill says give them a few days and see…they'll either turn black and wither or pop back up.
There is no benefit to cutting things off now. It doesn't make the plants feel better. Ginger may be an exception. If you cut it back now, it'll return in spring.
Woody plants like alyssum and rhododendron may have some new growth burned, but should be fine. These plants have survived Gulf Coast winters for millions of years. Azaleas managed the cold well, too, and most are already setting buds. Sometimes very cold snaps will split azalea bark, but a few lesser freezes this year seemed to have helped acclimate them to the cold.
Citrus may have burned leaves, but don't panic. It's going to come back.
The most damage is likely to be to potted plants, especially hanging plants whose roots were exposed to the cold wind. Don't hold out too much hope for those.
So what should you do with your cold-damaged plants right now? Bill says wait. That's the best thing. Let the plant sort it out. We may not know exactly how much damage was really done until spring…but there's good reason to be optimistic.