The Q&A Archives: freeze/frost damage

Question: Hi there! I live in sunset zone 19/ the hills of my city, and like so many, yard has many dead or frost damamged plants. I have a green gem ficus whose leaves are all brown, but the wood,when scraped with my fingernail is still green. And I have two vines, one distictus rivers and distictus buccinatoria, thirty ft. of them on my fence, which now has crispy leaves, and I can't tell if it's dead or not.....should I try cutting them back or just give them up? My tangerine, lemon and grapefruit made it, as did the avocado( with a little leaf freeze)! The lantana, licorice plants, mexican sage varieties, and geranium varieties look really bad/dead, but my cacti and yuccas faired pretty well. If you could give me an advise as to any of them I'd really appreciate it. especially the vines and ficus tree.... Thanks so much. If you know of any books that describe detailed annual pruning and care of perrenials and trees with photos, that would be great too, so I might not have to bug you folks so much! I hope you and yours did well through this freeze! Thanks for your time, Nanc

Answer: My landscape looks a lot like yours; I'm afraid we're all dealing with frost damage this year. The best advice is to do nothing at all at this point. Wait until early spring when growth normally begins and then carefully inspect each of your plants. You may find new leaves emerging from what look like dead branches. If so, your plants are on their way to recovery. If you do not see any new growth, or all the growth is at the bottom of the plant, cut away the dead portions and wait for the roots to send up new stems. I think the ficus trees took the worst of the damage. The crispy brown leaves will fall but the stems should be okay. Watch for new leaves to appear in the spring.

One of the best hands-on pruning books is a paperback entitled Pruning by Christopher Brickell. It has tons of sketches and you can take it into the yard with you while you prune so you'll be sure to make the right cuts.

We're always happy to help so be sure to drop by often.

Best wishes with your garden!

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