The Q&A Archives: what to do with my ficus tree after the hard freeze

Question: what should I be doing to help my brown ficus tree come back to life? I know it's not dead, but other trees in my neighborhood have started to establish green leaves and mine has not. Please help.

Answer: No matter how unsightly the frost damage may appear, don't trim it off. The dead foliage acts as an insulating buffer to protect live tissue during future frosts. Our frosts are likely done for this season, but another potential outcome of pruning too early is removing more plant tissue than necessary. Oftentimes, damage looks worse than it is. Wait until new green growth starts to pop as temperatures warm in March or early April. Then cut back dead stems to that new growth. Excessive pruning also opens the tree up to sunburn, just around the corner with summer's arrival. There's nothing to be done to hurry all these frost-damaged ficus back to health, other than making sure they are watered sufficiently, to a depth of 3 feet for mature trees, somewhat less if they are young trees planted within the last year or two. Water should be applied at the outer canopy edge. When (if) green growth starts, then you can apply fertilizer. It won't help before then. Unfortunately for many folks, their ficus aren't going to recover from this year's hard frost that showed up several nights in a row. Good luck with yours!

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