February 8, 2018
I don’t know about you but many of my plants got completely destroyed during this last prolonged cold snap. My gingers are toast, the plumbago is all brown and my butterfly garden is unrecognizable.
I know that I should, if at all possible, delay pruning until the new growth appears. That way I can make sure that any live wood is not removed. Also, the dead material can help to insulate the core of the plant from future freezes. But since the plants affected are in a high maintenance area, like right by my front door, it is hard to resist pruning. I know a hard pruning will stimulate new growth that could be nipped by another cold spell so resist I must.
We may not even see all of the fallout from this severe cold until later in the spring. Cold-damaged plants might not put on new growth in March or April as expected or they may have an overall weakened appearance. Sometimes we see just the branch tips burned back and the older wood is still fine. Use your fingernail to peel back the bark to the cambium layer. It should be a light green color. If it is brown or black the wood is damaged to that point.
A hard winter like this reminds us that it is important to have a mixture of plants in the landscape. It is fine to incorporate tender tropical plants in the Florida landscape, but if you have tough winter-hardy plants and evergreens to serve as anchors in the landscape design you will prevent the "total devastation" look that some of our landscapes are experiencing.
-- Wendy Wilber