The Q&A Archives: Will perennials come back after freeze

Question: In St. Louis last week we had a pretty hard from two or three days and my ferns, astillbe, rose bushes, hostas and flowering trees were all bloomed out. What do I need to do to help the plants recover from this shock. They all look very sad. Please help. LaCretia in St. Louis

Answer: This kind of spring weather is so hard on the plants! In the aftermath there is not a lot you can do except wait and see. The good news is most should recover, although there may be some damaged growth tips and certainly there is damaged stem/foliage on the perennials. When you are sure that the cold weather has truly passed, trim off any tips that are dead. (The damaged material will help protect the plant if there is more cold weather.) On woody plants, live wood is supple and has green inside the bark; dead wood is dry and off color brown or gray and snaps in your hand. Some tips may lose foliage but releaf in the coming months, so be very patient. On roses, trim according to pruning guidelines, cutting above a bud or branch directed in the way you would like the plant to grow. On perennials such as hosta, cold damaged leaves will be very soft and droopy or mushy and flat. You can leave these in place or gently remove them. If you wish, pick off additional foliage that looks scorched or let it eventually drop off naturally. It may take quite some time for the plants to gather enough energy to grow again, so be very patient. A top dressing of compost and watering in case of a dry spell would be about all you can do.

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