Time can heal freeze wounds

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 7, 2010

We are continuing to get calls about freeze damage to certain trees and plants in the landscape.

Let me go ahead and say something that I heard a lot growing up “time can heal things.”

Unfortunately sometimes we have to be patient when it comes to determining the fate of plants. Certainly we can make predictions based on past experiences and science, but it is often hard to tell if a tree will bounce back.

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I remember after the horrible storms last year a plum tree, at my in-laws was snapped off clean at the ground from the high winds. There was literally a three-inch strip of bark holding that whole tree together. I was 100 percent positive it needed to be cut up and burned.

My paw-in-law said wait and see if it makes it. I thought he was crazy, he pruned all the limbs back and said let time take over. I looked at that tree Thursday afternoon and to my amazement that tree has grown 10 fold since last year and I am sure will put on a full crop of plums this year.

Q: How can you tell if sago palms are dead?

A: Sago palms, which are actually not palms but primitive cone-bearing plant related to conifers, are not made for cold temperatures. Temperatures below 24 can cause serious damage to them. In Natchez, we have a large number of them in the landscape. As of now I would wait until the spring and see if they begin to put on new growth. However, when the leaves turn brown they do not change back; the leaves, not the plant, are dead and eventually will need to be removed. Sago palms put on all new growth from the top of the plant not sides or bottom. Do not cut them all the way down to the ground, this will likely kill them. Just cut the leaves off at the base of the trunk and hopefully new growth should occur. If you cut them back in the spring and no new growth has emerged by the end of summer chances are you will need to replace the plant. I have talked to a few of our horticulture specialists and they all seem optimistic that they should come back. It will take them a few years to get back to their current size in some situations.

Q: My hanging ferns look terrible what should I do with them?

A: If you have hanging ferns and you have neglected them all winter, you may need new ones to decorate the patio this spring. Because of their exposed roots, hanging baskets often take the cold temperatures much worse than those same plants planted in the ground. I wrote in an article a while back about taking hanging ferns down and protecting the whole plant, specifically the root system.

If you have hanging ferns that are looking grim right now, all I can suggest is waiting to see what happens in the coming months, you may need to cut them all the way back to the hanging basket and give time a chance to heal them.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.