Greener BeeGreen TipsDon’t prune freeze-damaged plants just yet: 5 tips for recovering your garden

The hard freezes of this past week have damaged our tropical plants. Gardeners trying to minimize maintenance — and those who consider covering and uncovering plants a major hassle — should consider reducing or even eliminating tropicals in their landscapes.

But for the rest of us, tropical plants are worth the extra effort. Their ability to thrive during the intense heat and humidity of summer and the beauty of their foliage and flowers ensure that many gardeners will put up with the effort needed to protect them in winter and the sad, brown foliage that results from freezes.

Despite its effect on tender tropicals, this week’s almost record cold has not been enough to damage hardier plants, such as azaleas and gardenias. This sometimes happens when temperatures plunge to the low teens. But on the north shore, temperatures in the 20s and upper teens this week have not damaged hardy trees, shrubs, ground covers and lawns. 

Also, many damaged tropicals will recover, especially if given protection. In New Orleans, temperatures stayed in the 20s. While the damage is extensive, if we don’t get anything worse, our landscapes should recover.

Despite how terrible this damage looks, it may be a benefit in disguise. With their exuberant growth, some tropicals seem determined to take over our yards. Few gardeners have the heart to prune back the plants to keep them under control because they bloom so frequently, and no one generally wants to cut back a plant in bloom. Now, nature has dealt with the situation for us by freezing back overgrown tropicals, and in many instances, we and our landscapes will be better off for it.

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