What to Do for Indoor Plants with Leaves Dead After Frost Damage

Overview

Most frost damage does not occur in the winter months, but rather in the fall or spring when a frost is unexpected and plant growers are unprepared. Resulting frost damage might kill some delicate plants, but other can bounce back with some appropriate care. Plants that can be brought indoors are treated differently than those left outdoors.

Thaw

A frost-damaged plant that has dead-looking leaves or foliage should be thawed out gently indoors. Pour water over the leaves to remove frost. Pour water into the pot to thaw the soil. If the plant is small or especially delicate, spray the leaves with a spray bottle or mister to thaw the leaves. Don't brush frost from the leaves.

Indirect Light

Direct sunlight can be too much for a damaged plant. The leaves are not healthy and too much sunlight can burn the plant, causing further damage. Place the pot in indirect light, even if damaged leaves have been removed. New growth from a pruned plant needs a milder dose of sunlight as well.

Limit Water

When watering a frost-damaged plant, don't overwater. Less water than usual may be necessary. If roots have experienced damage, but are still salvageable, they will absorb water but are delicate and won't absorb water as quickly as they used to. Too much water can cause root rot, killing the entire plant.

Prune

Before getting out those pruning shears, give the plant a chance to heal itself. Sometimes leaves look bad, but given time and correct care, they may make a comeback. If frost exposure was brief, the leaves are more likely to be able to heal, but if the exposure was prolonged, the plant is often better off pruned. Brief exposure happens when the frost happens in the morning. Prolonged exposure takes place when the frost happened during the night and temperatures stayed low throughout the night and into the morning. Most of the dead or frost damaged leaves will be on the plant's outer layer, so prune more selectively after you've removed the first layer of leaves. Stimulate new growth by pruning frost damaged branches or stems to within 1/4 inch of a live bud or branch.

Keywords: indoor plants, frost damage, dead leaves

About this Author

Laura Rico has been a journalist for more than five years in Michigan and California. She began her career as a staff writer at two community newspapers before accepting an assistant editor position in Northern California. She currently works as a page designer/copy editor and freelance writer in Holland, Mich.