Every 10 years or so we experience abnormally cold weather in the Florida panhandle, the unusual part about the artic blast this year is the ice that came with it. Many of our favorite plants took a direct hit from the wintry mix that made it to our area last month. Though our first inclination may be to remove the “dead” plants and cut back the wintry burn, we must show restraint and follow the best horticultural practices for each plant.
Cut Back Soft Tissue Plants
Let’s tackle the easiest group first. Soft tissue plants such as philodendron, elephant ears, Mexican petunias, crinum lilies and agapanthus can be cut back immediately.
These plants are cold hardy for our area and will regenerate new growth from the roots.
Occasionally philodendrons will lose a woody stem or two during extreme cold. Determining whether or not the trunks have survived takes patience as I have seen plants that appeared dead break dormancy as late as June.
Cut Back Deciduous Woodies
Deciduous, woody plants like hibiscus, lantana, and bush daisy may also be cut back soon after a freeze. Sometimes these plants die back completely and flush out from the base.
Be patient before you decide to uproot these dead plants. Even hibiscuses are known to come out of dormancy in June. Though big-leaf hydrangeas look dreadful this time of year, it is not recommended to cut them back during the winter months. Oakleaf hydrangeas may be cut back in winter to control size.
Wait to Cut Back Broadleaf Plants
Broadleaf evergreens, including Oleanders, Gardenia, and Bottlebrush cannot be pruned until danger of freeze has past. Pruning these plants too soon can cause new growth to form. Should this new growth be hit by a freeze or even a hard frost, the plants may die or become damaged to the point where they may lose their aesthetic quality.
Though it may seem unnatural to suffer through looking at burnt plants throughout the days ahead, it makes more sense economically to take the wait-and-see approach to pruning and cutbacks.
Say Goodbye To Tropical Plants
Time to brace yourself for the bad news: Tropical plants including crotons, Hawaiian ti, ixora, roebellini palms, queen palms and Sylvester palms, are most likely dead.
There will be exceptions: After a winter freeze, you'll see microclimates in action. Some of these plants that are lucky enough to be shielded by other plants or are close to buildings may come out unscathed. Unfortunately for most, their lives will be cut short too soon and they will be sorely missed.
Need Our Help?
We at GreenEarth Landscape Services will be happy to help answer any questions our clients and future clients may have on this subject. We're ready to help affected landscapes recover from this harsh Florida panhandle winter!
Call our Panama City Beach office at (850) 236-1959 or our Santa Rosa Beach office at (850) 267-0010. Or fill out our simple web form to have a GreenEarth landscape professional call you.