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Why do my plants look dry? It could be cold damage!

January and February are the coldest months in Florida, and plants can be damaged by low temperatures. But with your help, cold damaged plants can often recover.


After a freeze, check the soil around your plants. Plants may not be getting the water they need if the soil has dried out or if the water in the soil is frozen.  Watering the area can help defrost the soil and provide your plants with an available source of moisture. Even injured plants need water.


While you may be tempted to add a little fertilizer to your plants to help speed their recovery hold off. If you fertilize too early you could encourage new growth before cold weather has gone. It’s best to wait until spring to begin fertilizer application. Once the danger of frost has passed, an application of fertilizer can help speed recovery.


Don’t prune cold-damaged plants right away. The dead foliage looks bad, but will help insulate plants from further injury. In the spring, assess the extent of the damage by scraping the bark with your fingernail. Cold-injured wood will be black or brown under the bark. To be certain where to prune, wait until plants begin to sprout new growth.

Herbaceous plants like impatiens and begonias that are damaged by the cold may collapse. If this happens, it’s best to cut them down and remove the plants to prevent fungal or bacterial problems from arising as they decay.


Seeing your lawn turn brown during the winter can be worrying for some homeowners; however, this is a normal part of your lawn’s winter dormancy. Come spring time your lawn should rebound and begin producing new green growth.

But when hard freezes hit, your turfgrass may be injured. If temperatures suddenly fall below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, your lawn may be permanently damaged. The grass may initially appear wilted, and then turn to a whiteish or brown color. It may mat to the ground and smell putrid. If your lawn does not recover in the spring, you may have to replace some of the grass with sod pieces or plugs.


Since foliar necrosis (brown fronds) is one of the first and most conspicuous symptoms associated with cold damage, palm owners are often anxious to trim off these necrotic (brown) or mostly necrotic leaves following a cold weather event. Avoid the temptation to remove these leaves until the danger of additional cold weather has passed. Even dead leaves provide some insulative value to the palm meristem.

If the cold weather was sufficient to kill the spear leaf base and the spear leaf can easily be pulled out, it may be helpful to remove the spear leaf to allow for air movement and drying of the tissue. Drenching the bud area with a copper fungicide (not a copper nutrient spray or drench) to reduce the chances of secondary microbes killing the meristem may also be helpful. Whether or not such practices actually improve palm survival has never been scientifically tested. If the spear leaf does not pull out easily, it is likely that the spear leaf base has survived, and since the meristem is much hardier than the spear leaf base, it too should be alive. Fungicide treatment of such palms is probably unnecessary.

Information from and

Royal palm showing cold damaged fronds. Spear leaf is unaffected.