How to Care for Plants After a Freeze

Overview

After a frost or freeze, damage to plants sometimes looks much worse than it really is. In the spring, new growth appears, revitalizing the plant. Wait until late spring to fully assess the damage and make decisions about pruning and replacing plants. After freeze damage, new growth may appear later in the spring than normal, so allow plenty of time before giving up on a plant.

Step 1

Remove any fruits that remain on the tree, including undeveloped fruit. Producing fruit takes valuable energy that the plant needs to overcome the freeze damage.

Step 2

Protect the plant from wind and excessive sun immediately following a freeze. Use a wind break and shade cloth to prevent sunscald on damaged leaves and bark. Wrap the trunk of newly planted trees below the first set of branches with a white wrapping. Maintain this wrapping through the first year.

Step 3

Remove broken branches back to another branch or to the main trunk. Cut large branches just above the swelling of the branch collar.

Step 4

Wait until late spring when new growth appears to access the damage and do the remaining pruning. Identify dead wood and cut back to an outward facing bud on healthy wood or to a stem or trunk. Do not leave stubs. Do not prune healthy wood at this time. Leave it to help re-establish the plant.

Step 5

Water the plants as needed throughout the spring, summer and fall. Prevent drought conditions that will further stress the plant and avoid over-watering. Apply a layer of mulch to hold in soil moisture.

Step 6

Withhold fertilizer until the fall.

Step 7

Remove suckers and branches developing from the roots and below the graft union on grafted plants.

Step 8

Remain alert for disease and pest damage and treat promptly. Freeze damaged plants are more susceptible to disease and pests.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Small hand saw

References

  • Washington State University Extension: Winter Injury of Landscape Plants
  • Arizona Cooperative Extension: Identification and Prevention of Frost or Freeze Damage
  • University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: Freeze Damage What Now?
Keywords: plant freeze damage, assessing freeze damage, pruning after freeze

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.