Post-Freeze To-do’s (and Don’t Do’s)

Jesse JenkinsBest Practices, Lawn Care, Life in The Garden, Problem Solving, Timely Tips28 Comments

It was nice having some cold weather for Christmas, but some of our plants might disagree.

Covering plants (and keeping them covered) was a big challenge with such high winds. Chances are, we’ve all got some plants that suffered damage. But it’s too early to give up and too soon to prune! Here are a few do’s and don’t do’s right now.

The good news is our forecast looks warm and sunny! Our best advice right now is to get everything uncovered, water well, and let everything enjoy the sunshine. The cold, dry wind dried everything out, so most plants will need water. But use a moisture meter and be sure not to water too much. Some plants wilt and look thirsty just because they’re cold and will perk up as temps rise.

Tender tropical plants like Philodendrons, Gingers, Cannas, and Bananas probably look pretty defeated right now unless you were able to cover them really well. Give tender tropicals at least a week before deciding to cut them back. Woodier tropicals like Bougainvillea and Hibiscus may have some damaged foliage, and will likely be fine, but time will tell. Don’t prune them yet.

Many perennials (such as Salvias, Duranta, Turk’s Cap, Mexican Bush Sage) that were left uncovered should survive. They look bad and they lost a lot of foliage, but they are mostly dormant right now anyway. Our first instinct may be to cut them back now, but it’s too early! You don’t want to prune now and make the plant think it’s time to start coming out of dormancy and putting on new growth. That new growth would be more cold-sensitive. Also, the ugly burned foliage will act as insulation if we get another freeze. If you can tolerate the unsightliness, leave them alone. If not, remove the damaged leaves, but don’t prune. Wait to prune until February when it’s time for plants to start putting on new Spring growth.

Keep in mind, it’s still Winter! Keep your frost cloth and plant covering supplies handy in case we get another cold snap. As always, get in touch if you have questions about specific plants. You can send us pictures to, Facebook, or Instagram. Or give us a call or stop by!

28 Comments on “Post-Freeze To-do’s (and Don’t Do’s)”

  1. Thanks so much for this! I was going to do a web search today and you were on it! Much appreciated.

  2. Thanks I love these email was searching for it yesterday. Please provide me with tips to better prepare next year would you suggest putting lights and brick around the roots to keep plants better insulated?

    1. Hi Lor – for the next freeze, be sure you’ve got plenty of frost cloth and things to weigh it down with. Bricks work great. Using lights or heating coils can be helpful, but also hazardous. Making a tent with frost cloth to seal in ground warmth will do the trick.

  3. Is it time to remove allthe dead ‘mush’ from very frozen Arrowhead plants and sweet potato vine ? I read this can cause fungus in the bed if left ?

    1. Yes, you can go ahead and remove the damage on those. Once you’ve done that, mulch the area to help insulate/protect the roots.

  4. I’d be lost without y’all! As a new South Texas gardener transplanted from Colorado, I have much to learn. I appreciate all your advice. Thank you!

  5. Thank you! And my plants are thanking you. I was just about to head for the pruning shears. Not yet!

  6. Thank you for your advice. My Cannas & Hibiscus look so sad, but will leave them alone till pruning time. Always look forward to your articles.

    1. If plumerias are soft and mushy to the touch, go ahead and remove those areas. Be sure to cut at an angle so moisture doesn’t sit on the stub. If we have another freeze, it will be critical to cover/protect it.

  7. I love these emails! We don’t have plants yet, but I am ready to get started. Can you include tips for aspiring gardeners waiting through the cold weather to get started in the next update?

    1. N- if the plants you want are normally freeze tolerant, like Indian hawthorn, live oak, Texas sage, anything other than tropicals, DO NOT WAIT for spring, PLANT NOW! We just today did a volunteer butterfly garden planting at Windsor Park Elementary, because plants planted now grow roots the next two months, and therefore will show much more top growth and drought tolerance in spring and summer.

  8. Thank you for this info. This is all new to me and my front yard was planted with shrubs for this area – Port A

  9. Yes, there’s hope but no guarantee, you will just have to wait until the weather warms sufficiently in March and April and hope for some new fronds to emerge. Sometimes you will even have new leaves emerge later than April. But if the trunk buckles over, then you know there’s no hope.

  10. So grateful for this site and nursery. I do have post freeze questions on two types of plants (Wedelia and Dwarf Mexican Petunia). I came out from California and relandscaped my sister’s .4 acres (she is now handicapped). I tried to research thoroughly but never is enough. I wish I found you then:-)
    I planted 30 Dwarf Mexican Petunias and a whole section (75′ x 15′) in Wedelia (yellow dot). these are my questions:
    PETUNIAS: Should I cut back the brown stems? They are set in rock. I covered all the petunias as best I could but some pulled up the first night. Some green is left in most plants, but most of each plant are brown/crispy. I note that I was previously treating them for fungus. I cut back landscape cloth, repeatedly treated, and they were well established. Curiously, many of the surviving leaves, were the ones with fungus still there?
    WEDELIA: What post freeze treatment should it receive? It could not be covered. It is all brown and crispy. I put in tremendous effort to fight the weeds (stickers, crab, and all else) for 8 months until thick and bushy. Will I be faced with that again as they regrow?
    Again, thank you for your nursery and advise.

    1. Wedelia and Mexican petunia should both come back after the freeze. I can’t guess how much weed problem you may have but whatever it is you will just have to deal with it.

  11. I had new grass planted in mid-October. I watered it well for 2 months and it had new growth showing. Now it does not look very good. How do I take care of this new grass planting?

    1. I can’t know for sure, but it’s very likely your grass is suffering from brown patch/large patch fungus. If so, it will recover in spring once it warms up, you should not be watering lawns weekly at this time of year, that really feeds the fungus.

  12. I covered a suculent that was planted in a pot that could not be brought inside. Now is looking dusky and mushy.

    What should I do?

    1. Hi Maruca – probably not much hope for succulents left out during a freeze. Since they have so much water content, they freeze easily then turn to mush. You could go ahead and cut away all the mushy parts and feel around for anything that’s still firm. If so, it may regrow from the firm part over time. Or you might choose to start over.

  13. Thanks for all the good advice. After this latest freeze, I am tempted to replace the plants I lost with cold hardy equivalents. Do you have any recommendations? BTW, my dwarf bottle brush has survived both this hard freeze and the one before with no apparent damage.

    1. Hi Lucy – that’s great news about the bottlebrush! We can certainly help you redesign your landscape using more cold-hardy plants. So many choices! Give us a call or stop by and we can start looking at options.

  14. Should I do anything to my Native Olive tree? All leaves are brown and droopy. I’m guessing I should just leave it be until Spring?

    Also native Lantana – I did not cover it- it’s brown and crunchy. Thanks!!!

    1. Hi Lani – hang tight! Both should recover just fine. You don’t want to do any major pruning until February because you don’t want to encourage new growth just yet.

  15. I wasn’t home, so everything got zapped. My Cenzio sage looks great, my Texas sage looks terrible. 🙁

    Also, my Meyer lemon tree is extremely sad looking. Will it snap back?

    1. Hi Catherine – the Texas Sage should be fine. Give it some more time, then may need some light pruning in February. The lemon tree may or may not bounce back. If it was planted in the last 2 years, it will still be very susceptible to cold. If more established, it will have a better chance. Leave it alone for now, just make sure to water. Not too much water, though. If it starts growing again below the graft line (look for the dogleg in the trunk near the ground), then that growth is no good. If it starts growing up top, that’s a great sign!

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