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Cold injury in plants
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The winter storm of the past week has led to many shrubs and trees damaged in home landscapes.

Most homeowners will deal with a few broken branches and ice-damaged plants at the very least.

Others will be dealing with severe tree damage to their entire property.

Following are a few things to consider when deciding how to deal with your cold-damaged plants.

If you are dealing with downed trees or very large branches, first make sure there are no downed power lines underneath them. Contact your power company if you are unsure.

If the damage is severe, contact a local arborist to help assess the tree damage and clean up the mess.

Many trees experienced split and cracked branches during the ice storm. Some of this branch damage may be fatal to the tree.

When branches break off and take a good portion of the main trunk bark when they fall, it can hurt the tree's ability to transport nutrients and water.

It can also expose the tree to fatal insect and disease issues.

If you have questions, contact your local arborist of the extension agent for advice.

Another after-effect of this cold weather will be winter burn injury, especially on newly-transplanted plants.

Winter burn can occur when the plant experiences low soil moisture, freezing temperatures and strong winds.

Because they retain their foliage throughout the winter, evergreens are continually transpiring water through their leaves or needles.

If low soil moisture or sub-freezing temperatures combine with heavy winds, the plant's roots cannot adequately replace the water that is lost during this period of rapid transpiration.

When water usage exceeds available water, the needles, leaves and twigs dry out and die.

Foliage often appears brown or bleached, which can often be mistaken for insect of disease damage. Often seen on evergreens like azaleas, new blooms will appear brown and shriveled.

Of course, winter injury is not limited to evergreen plants.

Deciduous plants can also fall victim to cold temperatures.

Dead leaves, dead branch tips and necrotic blooms can occur after a freeze event.

Regardless of the type of winter injury seen, it is often beneficial to wait until mid-spring to assess the damage. Often, blooms and buds will sprout from areas that at first appeared to be completely lost.

Some evergreens, like hollies, may eventually produce enough new leaves to fill in the voids.

Prune out dead twigs and branches about an inch from live tissue, or back to the collar of the next live branch.

Removing the dead and damaged leaves and blooms will help stimulate new plant growth. Pruning also helps to reduce the chance of secondary plant diseases infecting the dead branches.

Once the weather warms up, it is important to fertilize the injured plants early.

This will help to stimulate new growth. Irrigating the injured plants throughout the season will also help prevent future winter burn.

Occasional deep watering, even during the winter months, will help ensure adequate water is available for your plants year-round. A 3-inch layer of mulch is also recommended to help retain appropriate soil moisture.

MacAllister is the Dawson County Extenstion Agent. He can be reached at (706) 265-2442.

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