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Ask George

Q:  What do I do with the frozen plants in my yard?

A:  Florida winters are generally mild, but we do get some cold weather and an occasional freeze.  What happens if your plants freeze? Don’t worry. Wait until mid-February to pull out your shovel and clippers, but start making plans to renovate your landscape now. Survey the plants to see what looks good and what doesn’t.

Sometimes you’ll find multiple micro-climates in the same neighborhood or even the same yard.  A hibiscus or croton planted close to the south wall of your home may be fine – the same specimen in a more open location may be damaged every time temperatures drop.

No matter how horrible it looks, try to resist pruning until the danger of more severe cold has passed. Waiting to prune dead leaves and branches gives the remaining plant a layer of insulation, and pruning stimulates new tender growth that will be even more tender than what’s already frozen.

Another reason to wait is that damage may be even worse than it looks right now. It takes about a month for the full extent of damage to show – you may notice stems cracking and bark peeling away as further indications of cold damage. Once danger of frost has passed, remove all dead leaves and branches to help prevent disease. Some plants may need to be cut back to the ground although they may recover rapidly if they had a well-established root system.

Beds of flowering annuals like impatiens, salvia or zinnias that have been damaged can be replaced immediately with hardy winter-blooming flowers like pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, delphinium, dianthus, dusty miller, ornamental cabbage or kale, petunias, Shasta daisies and snapdragons. They'll die out when it gets hot but they tolerate cold temperatures well.

If you’re thinking about renovating your landscape, look around your neighborhood at what looks good now. Arrow can help you design and then plant a new landscape using cold-tolerant plants that look great even in the worst of weather.

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