Winter is not over yet,
and homeowners in west central Florida should be aware of the risks of freeze damage to their landscaping. Despite the mild winters of recent years, we have seen that temperatures can still drop well below freezing and cause damage to plants that are not hardy in this area. Crotons, Ti plants, and tropical fruit trees are particularly susceptible to freeze damage and can be killed to the roots if temperatures drop too low.
Other shrubs and palms may also experience substantial freeze damage but can still survive and recover later in the spring. The key is to make sure that the plants you are investing in can survive the coldest average temperatures in your area. Homeowners should check the hardiness of the plants they are considering and choose those that are appropriate for their growing zone.
Cold damage to lawns is also normal during the winter months. It is important to note that no amount of water and fertilizer will make your lawn green and lush again overnight. Only the longer days and warmer temperatures of spring will do that. If your lawn is brown, continue with normal irrigation during dry weather, but do not apply turf fertilizer until April 1st in Hernando County to comply with our local fertilizer ordinances. If you live outside of Hernando County, please check with your county Extension office to get details on your fertilizer rules and regulations.
Homeowners should also be aware that shrubs and bushes should not be trimmed back until after the frosts and freezes are over, which is normally late February to early March. Waiting until then to decide if a plant is dead or just damaged is important. You can tell if a plant is still alive by scraping the stem with your fingernail. If it is still green underneath, the stem is still alive. Some plants in your landscape may just need to be trimmed back in the spring to recover, but if you have any plants that are just too tropical for this area, they may be a complete loss.
Trees that are most susceptible to damage are palms that are not recommended to be grown this far north, like Bismarck, foxtail, and even queen palms, or tropical flowering trees. Homeowners should watch for splitting bark on trees caused by severe freezing because it usually leads to bark beetle damage in the spring. If you lost a palm tree to the freezes, consider replacing it with one that is more appropriate for your growing zone.
In conclusion, homeowners in west central Florida should be aware of the risks of freeze damage to their landscaping and take steps to protect their plants and trees. Choosing plants that are appropriate for your growing zone, being aware of the hardiness of the plants you are investing in and waiting until after the frosts and freezes are over to trim back shrubs and bushes are all important steps to take in protecting your landscape from freeze damage.