Most of Florida is now experiencing mild weather after two weeks of record breaking cold. You have probably had a chance to survey the damage that was dealt to your plants by the freezing weather and depending upon where those plants were located in your garden and their cold tolerance some probably held up better than others to the Arctic front.
Take the FloridaGardener’s advice – DO NOT CLIP, PRUNE OR FERTILIZE any of your plants now, obvious damage or none. The reason for this is that the even though we are currently back into milder weather it is very likely that in the following months we could again experience hard frosts or freezing weather. Clipping, pruning or fertilizing your plants at this time could provoke them into a new flush of tender growth that will definitely be further damaged if another “Canadian Express” comes roaring south in the following weeks.
By late February or early March Florida plants will begin to spring-forth with new growth and you will be able to see for sure what plants have been killed by the cold and what damage should be removed from the survivors.
Let me make this perfectly clear, severe pruning of freeze damaged plants should be delayed until new growth appears and further threats of frosts and freezes have passed. However, dead, unsightly leaves may be removed as soon as they turn brown. If possible, wait until they fall from the plants by themselves.
Cold damage may appear as a lack of spring bud break on a portion or on all of the plant. Some plants may show an overall weak appearance. The outer branch tips on some plants may be damaged, while older wood may be free of injury.
The “line” between dead and live wood will eventually be “marked” by the growth of a new bud. A small scrape of the bark with a sharp knife will show either a green or darkened growth layer. The cold damaged cambium layers under the bark will be black or brown in color; living plant tissue will be green. Prune damaged branches behind this point of discoloration.
In some cases, it will take some time for the buds to break after cold damage. Be patient before proceeding with freeze-kill pruning. In the meantime, continue to regularly irrigate your plants so that you do not accidentally compound the damage to them by causing them to dry out and die from lack of water.