OYO: Caring for frost damaged plants

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In this week's Owning Your Outdoors, KSFY lawn and garden expert Doug Schroeder from Lewis has tips on what to do with plants that may have fallen victim to ol' Jack Frost.

Average last frost

With all of the cold and frost this past week, we thought it would be a good idea to give you some tips on what to do with plants that might have some damage. Our KSFY lawn and garden expert, Doug Schroeder from Lewis, says that even if your plants and perennials did suffer a bit of frost damage, there's a pretty good chance that they will be okay.

A frost occurs when temperatures drop to 32 degrees. A hard freeze occurs when temperatures drop to 28 degrees or below and remain there for an extended period of time. Many plants can handle temperatures in the upper 20s to low 30s for a short while. The significant damage occurs when temperatures drop to or below the 28 degree mark and remain there for an extended period of time… Several hours or more.

When trying to decide whether or not to take action to protect plants from frost, consider the actual temperature and not the windchill. The windchill factor is not used to determine whether or not there will be frost.

Plants growing along the house or on the south side of a building are a bit less susceptible to frost because temperatures tend to be a bit warmer there.

Freezing temperatures freeze up plant cells which cause parts of the plant to die off. Doug says that even though that happens, the majority of the time the root system is fine. The plant may not look so good for a while, but it will likely be okay.

If your plant does receive frost damage, one of the first things you will notice is a blackness or brown color on the foliage. Sometimes you might see a dark green tint to the foliage and it will almost look as though it is wet.

Care for Frost Damaged Plants

If your perennial or shrub is damaged by frost, you will eventually have to prune away the damaged part of the plant. Doug suggests waiting to do this until late May or after any threat had frost has passed. If there is more frost, the damaged foliage will actually help protect the rest of the plant from more damage. After the threat of frost has passed, prune away the damaged parts of the plant.

If you have an instance in which your plant is significantly damaged, it may require renewal pruning. Renewal pruning is, cutting the plant back down to the ground. Doug says that any time you prune an item, you are telling that perennial, shrub or flower to grow. It may take some time, but eventually your plant should be okay.

Frost Damage on Trees

Doug says that he has noticed some trees with minimal frost damage. That shouldn't be a problem. Trees have a secondary set of buds and they will leaf out again.

Your Landscape Should be Fine

This spring has been far from typical. Doug says that if you planted new landscape last year, be patient and give it a little extra time to green up and leaf out this spring. Plants are coming along a little more slowly than usual this year, but it won't be long and they will be green, growing and healthy.