Garden View: Garden recovery after the freeze


If you took the measures to keep your sub-tropical and tropical plants covered during the freeze this week, chances are the dip in temperatures is hardly noticeable in your landscape. Tropical plants in protected areas, covered or with windbreaks, did well.

Winds on Tuesday were strong even in the cities, and some leaf damage is likely for plants that were not covered or protected with lights or windbreaks.

Banana, Bird of Paradise, cannas and gingers may take a few weeks to recover if they were left unprotected. To neaten up the yard, you can remove leaves that turn brown and are dry. Do not be hasty and get out the pruning shears, however. Wait at least five to six weeks before doing any heavy pruning on these herbaceous tropical plants.

When you do prune, check the center to see if it is mushy. If so, this is a sign of rot on herbaceous plants. Some plants, like the ginger and banana, may need only those mushy parts removed. In six weeks, a live plant will send up new stems from the roots.

Ixora, hibiscus, and copper plants are considered woody, tropical plants. These tropical plants, along with figs and some citrus (lemons and limes being the most sensitive), can be damaged if left unprotected in temperatures that linger in the mid- to high-20s for several hours. Fortunately, our temperatures did not remain low for very long and we should not have damage, other than in unprotected, outlying areas.

Anytime you might suspect damage, wait to prune until you see new growth on plants in the spring. If they are dead, branches and twigs on woody plants will be brown when the bark is scraped. These branches should be cut out.

Always remember to cover plants with blankets or tarps when temperatures are predicted to dip below freezing. Plastic should be avoided, as the sun will cook plants that are under plastic. You can also use Christmas or shop lights on young trees and shrubs.

Wood mulch three to four inches deep is also effective in flower or vegetable beds. Row cover is most effective on vegetables, but usually requires advance ordering from online resources. If you do not have row cover available, mulch will work.

The wind is most damaging on vegetables, so protecting them with carefully placed cardboard boxes turned upside down over the vegetables will also provide protection. Be sure to weigh down the boxes in case you choose this method.

Remember, be patient after a freeze. Give the garden some time to recover on its own before deciding to prune or take out plants. You cannot hurry the recovery process, and pruning when another freeze is possible could in fact do permanent damage.

For information on upcoming fruit tree pruning classes, pick up a brochure and talk to the Master Gardeners today from 9 a.m. until noon at the Growing Growers Farmers Market. The market is located in McAllen’s Firemen’s Park at 1st Street and Business 83. You can also call for class reservations at (956) 383-1026.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her garden show at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio, or email her at