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Freeze Damaged Landscape?

The once green landscape has now turned brown or certain plants have turned brown because of freeze damage. Could this have been prevented? What can be done after plants are damaged?

Freeze or cold damage is usually prevented by choosing plants for your cold hardiness zone. When you choose plants that are from a warmer region (hardiness zone), expect to have damage or even death of plants in a cold snap. Save your time and money by choosing plants for your hardiness zone. Pinellas County has 2 zones – 9B and 10A. You can find your hardiness zone by visiting: planthardiness.ars.usda.gov This site allows you to enter your zip code and it gives you your hardiness zone.

When purchasing plants always check their hardiness zone and only select those that fit your zone. It is also important to match the other conditions of your landscape such as sunlight, soil moisture, water drainage, soil pH, etc. An easy site to do this is the Florida Native Plant Society website; once there select “Find Landscaping Plants”.

Stop pruning plants once fall has arrived. Pruning plants in the fall stimulates new growth. It tells the plant to grow rather than go dormant. New growth is very tender and easily harmed by cold or freezing weather.

Reduce or stop watering. The days are getting shorter in the fall and the temperatures are cooling. Plants are not growing rapidly and the water is not evaporating as quickly as in the summer. Continuing to water will keep the roots too wet and cause root rot and disease problems. If you have chosen plants to fit your site conditions they should not need any watering unless we are in a severe drought.

Stop fertilizing or reduce it significantly. Fertilizers, especially those with nitrogen, tell the plant to grow. It is important not to push plants to grow in the fall/winter season. Plants need to go dormant or slow down and harden off to withstand cold. New growth is tender and easily damaged by cold or freezing temperatures. Don’t force them to grow by applying nitrogen fertilizer.

Remember that fertilizing and watering when the plants are not actively growing wastes your money, further depletes our precious water supply and can cause water pollution. It is also bad for the plant.

Already damaged plants should be left alone. The damaged brown leaves will still provide some protection against the next freeze. Wait until new spring growth appears to see which parts of the plant died and remove those portions. If the entire plant died this is a great opportunity to select a proper plant for the space.

If you need help selecting plants for your landscape, we are here to help you. The free Lawn and Garden Help Desk is available Monday-Friday from 8:00 AM to 4:30 pm. The Lawn and Garden Hotline (727-582-2110) is available Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 am to noon and 1 to 4 pm. We also offer free and low cost classes, which are on our website: Pinellas.ifas.ufl.edu You can also visit the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ website: fyn.ifas.ufl.edu