I have been getting a lot of questions on whether this plant or that plant will be likely to recover. I think it is important to understand that the plants are still in the process of reacting to this freeze. They aren’t done yet!!!
The healthier a plant or tree was going into this freeze, the better the chance of recovery, especially with our native and adaptive species. In the coming weeks or even months, as trees and shrubs that still have the ability to put out new growth begin showing some green, we will also be experiencing some higher temperatures. High temperature and wind puts an added stress on the roots and vascular systems to be able to move enough water and nutrients through the plant as moisture is lost from the emerging leaves. Trees and shrubs that have had loss to the root system or damage to the vascular system will show symptoms at this time. This is why it is so hard to predict what the future holds for these trees and shrubs. Some may not show symptoms of stress until late spring or even summer.
I want to remind everyone not to jump to conclusions too early. All nurseries in Texas and Louisiana were heavily impacted by this freeze, and replacement plants of certain species may be limited. This was a significant event for everyone in Agriculture in these states, and it will take time to recover.
Personally, I am taking this opportunity to re-assess the plantings in my yard, and I think it will be a positive experience. Landscapes are dynamic, and we need to be prepared for change. This is harder for those of you with new landscapes, but it does give us the chance to realize that plants do not live forever. Many of our common landscape plants do have a “lifespan”. Texas Sage and Rosemary usually start to deteriorate after about 15 years. Even Salvia greggii get scraggly after about 5 years if not pruned correctly. I have lost many plants to fungal organisms in the soil, then had to replace them with plants that aren’t susceptible to that fungus. Nature is constantly changing, and we need to be prepared to change with it.
Live Oaks are shedding their leaves, as expected, and will begin leafing out soon. It is impossible to know what is going on inside the tree (the vascular system) and under the ground in the root system. I think that we may see the effects of the freeze on these trees for many months. Since we have not experienced the -1°F in some Central Texas locations in our lifetime, this will be a learning experience for us all. As I have said before, the health of the tree, location of the tree, moisture level in the soil and many other factors will determine the ultimate outcome. I am thinking positively until I know otherwise!
For those of you with Sandankwa Viburnum, it HAS been known to return from the roots, so be patient. Try to wait as long as you can to cut them back. We don’t want to encourage new growth that may be hit by a late freeze. Plants that are still viable will return in their own good time, if we let them.
Finally, for everyone with Rosemary that was affected by this freeze, if it is brown, it is safe to remove it now. Rosemary is one of the plants that does not come back from the roots and does not send out new growth from woody stems if you cut it back severely. I think we can all plan on replacing Rosemary this year.
Remember, we are all in this together, and we WILL recover from this freeze!