Ask a Question forum: S.O.S frostbitten indoor tree

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Calgary, Alberta
Kelseyleaa
Feb 1, 2018 5:58 PM CST
I have a small potted tree that has recently been frostbitten due to a friend opening a window. All the leaves are dead but the stem still appears to be green. I have watered it lightly and it takes awhile for the soil to become dry again. What do I do?
Thumb of 2018-02-01/Kelseyleaa/d5c761

Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 1, 2018 6:26 PM CST
Clearly, the leaves and stems were severely damaged by the cold. What is not known is if the roots were damaged also. They are somewhat insulated by the soil and pot, so they may be okay. If so, then new growth will gradually emerge.

For now, remove all dead leaf and stem tissue. Keep it warm and in a sunny location. It will use less water until it resumes healthy new growth. If you don't see new growth within 6 weeks, then you can assume the roots were also killed by the cold.

Good luck!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Feb 1, 2018 8:01 PM CST
Hello Kelseyleaa, try to feel the trunk up and down, if it still feels firm. You can also cut top portion till you get to see fresh green part and allow it to callus, put some cinnamon on that exposed cut area and dry off. I would not water right now, just keep it warm and in bright light area, no direct sun.

Typically if the plant is still okay it will try to grow new leaves below cut off node. I would not disturb the roots right now, just allow the plant to recover from that cold treatment. Good luck! Hope it pulls through.

This is how it would like if it is growing new leaves below cut off point:

Thumb of 2018-02-02/tarev/4da817

Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Feb 1, 2018 9:55 PM CST
Compost and buy a new one!
It may not be worth the effort to save it. If you get a new plant, or two, I would rather see you put less effort into growing those then trying to resurrect something from the dead.
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Feb 1, 2018 10:03 PM CST
@tarev,
I sent you an acorn because of the great photo. It is sometimes difficult to picture what the words are telling us. That image makes it clear what to look for. Thank You!
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Feb 2, 2018 9:51 AM CST
Thanks Greene Smiling

Good luck again Kelseyleaa, if you do plan to wait a bit to see if your plant tries to bounce back.
Calgary, Alberta
Kelseyleaa
Feb 2, 2018 10:37 AM CST
@tarav
So I cut lightly until I see green? When do I put the cinnamon on it?
Only water lightly? And keep it away from direct sunlight correct?
Thank you for your picture as well. The picture you took looks a bit different than my tree, is that a problem?

Thank you to everyone for the help! This plant has sentimental value so I'm doing the best I can to save it.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
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tarev
Feb 2, 2018 10:58 AM CST
Just a dab of cinnamon on the cut area. Cinnamon is a natural fungicide.

Do not water for now, just keep it warm but no direct sun.

Leaf colors of plants tend to vary depending on the light levels it was getting, but to me your plant looks like Dracaena marginata. Do you have a good photo of your plant when it was still doing okay?

Also looking at your plants current container, does that container have drainage holes? The reason I asked, you said the light watering you did before takes quite a while to dry out.
Calgary, Alberta
Kelseyleaa
Feb 4, 2018 11:34 AM CST
@tarev

I don't have much for pictures.
And the pot has a few rocks at the bottom but not many.

Thumb of 2018-02-04/Kelseyleaa/330001


Thumb of 2018-02-04/Kelseyleaa/85f3b3

Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 4, 2018 11:47 AM CST
The extensive shriveling of the three Marginata stems means those stems are already beyond recovery. If the lower stem gets soft or shriveled, then that means the roots are dead and no longer able to absorb water from the plant.

Try cutting it back to see if there are enough roots to get the lower stem to push out new growth, but keep your expectations low.

For future reference, adding "drainage material" to the bottom of pots is not a good substitute for using pots with drain holes.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Calgary, Alberta
Kelseyleaa
Feb 4, 2018 12:05 PM CST
@WillC
How far do you suggest I cut the tree down to? Or what I am suppose to do about the stem?
Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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BigBill
Feb 4, 2018 12:19 PM CST
Toss it all in the garbage and start over. These plants are cheap enough.
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 4, 2018 12:21 PM CST
I would cut it off about 6 inches above the soil or anywhere below where the three stems grow out of the main stem. I must say, however, that I am not optimistic that this will work because I believe the roots may be beyond recovery. Only time will tell. I wish you luck and hope my prediction is wrong (Wouldn't be the first time!).
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 4, 2018 12:23 PM CST
If it were my plant, I would probably follow BigBill's advice. But then I don't have personal attachments to my plants so discarding them is easy for me.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Calgary, Alberta
Kelseyleaa
Feb 4, 2018 12:35 PM CST
@WillC
Thank you for giving me advice to at least try.
Here is a picture of how it looks after the original cutting. Do I cut below where it has stemmed into 3 branches? Remove the whole top part?
The one side has started to produce little things that look like buds. (See photo).
Also the thicker area stills seems to be green just by looking.

Thumb of 2018-02-04/Kelseyleaa/7afb05
Thumb of 2018-02-04/Kelseyleaa/a26318
Thumb of 2018-02-04/Kelseyleaa/714673

Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
Image
WillC
Feb 4, 2018 12:44 PM CST
I don't yet see any viable buds emerging. If they are viable, they should be green soon.

My inclination would be to cut off the whole top section because those stems are completely shriveled. It is the lower, thicker portion that may have a future.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Calgary, Alberta
Kelseyleaa
Feb 4, 2018 1:32 PM CST
@WillC
So cut, then put cinnamon on the opening?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 4, 2018 1:50 PM CST
I have never seen any independent scientific research that has established the effectiveness of cinnamon as a fungicide and I don't know of any professionals who use it. I'm sure it does no harm, That said, fungus on stem cuttings is usually a problem only in very warm damp environments, including greenhouses. Not likely to be a problem where you are.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Calgary, Alberta
Kelseyleaa
Feb 6, 2018 11:43 AM CST
@WillC
This is how it looks. So now do I just leave the top exposed like that and hope that nature will fix my tree?
Thank you again to everyone for helping.
Thumb of 2018-02-06/Kelseyleaa/e663b7

Name: Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
Orchid Nut!
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BigBill
Feb 6, 2018 11:58 AM CST
It will dry by itself and "harden off" all by itself. (Heal the cut)
Within a few weeks time you should see new shoots developing from the remaining trunk. Just be careful not to water too much or the get water on the cut until it is healed.
"Our children are the messages we send to a time that we will never see."

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