After Cold Damage on Plants

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Q:  I think some of my plants were damaged by the recent cold temperatures. Do I need to do anything to them?

 A:        With the recent freezing temperatures we had over the last week, many gardeners may be discovering some plants showing symptoms of cold damage. There are many symptoms that can show up on plants with cold damage. Brown foliage is commonly the most noticeable symptom. Cold damage can also include stem or bark splitting, typically near the base of a plant, especially if there was sudden changes in temperature. It is also possible for a plant with cold damage to not show any immediate symptoms, but symptoms show up later

It is very hard to predict exactly what negative effects cold damage will have on certain plants this season. It depends on the plant, the amount of cold damage, and whether the plant is healthy enough to overcome the damage.

So, the big question now is what to do with plants in the landscape and garden that appear to have cold damage. Many think they should immediately go out and prune. Instead it is best to wait and not get into a hurry to prune. You want to wait and see how well the plant overcomes cold damage. You may think some plants appear dead, when really the plant or parts of the plant are not dead. Many get anxious to prune out the visible damage on plants, but it is important to remember that the plant was stressed when hit by cold damage and pruning could just stress the plant even more.

The first step to caring for plants in the landscape with cold damage is to simply wait to see how the plant responds. You maybe surprised how many plants will overcome cold damage and do fine. During this growing season watch those plants damaged by the cold. Wait to see if any new green foliage appears.

After waiting a few months, you can determine the extent of damage and remove any dead wood. It is important to properly care for trees and shrubs with cold damage this season. Do not over fertilize or over water with the thought of reviving the plant. This could just contribute to more damage instead of helping.

In the vegetable garden, you may have planted warm season vegetables early such as tomatoes and peppers that were damaged during the cold spells. It will be likely that these vegetables will not bounce back well and you will be better off to replant. Luckily, replanting warm season vegetables now will still be on time with the recommendation of planting warm-season vegetables after April 15th.

The important thing to remember is that there is little that can be done to immediately revive plants with cold damage. Avoid that urge to run out and prune out the damaged growth. Instead for trees and shurbs, wait and keep an eye on the plants during this growing season to see how the plant overcomes the cold damage. Then after a few months, start pruning out any dead growth that may have been caused by the recent cold snap.

Unfortunately, unusual weather is one of the challenges of gardening we can not control. Luckily for us, the positives of gardening outweigh the negative. So even if this year’s cold winter may have damaged some of your plants there will be plenty of years that gardeners will be able to reap the rewards of gardening with a beautiful display in the landscape and garden.

For additional lawn and garden information contact the Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. One can reach the Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic by phone at 919-731-1433, e-mail at, or stopping by Room 100 of the Wayne County Extension Office (208 West Chestnut Street, Goldsboro).

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Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. Horticulture program information can be found at // Forward any questions you would like answered from this week’s column to

Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs

  • Save the date for the annual Spring Garden Festival & Plant Sale! This year’s event will be held on Saturday, April 23rd at the Wayne County Extension Office (208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro). The Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have a great event planned with gardening demonstrations, children’s activities, along with many great plants for sale. Volunteers will also be on hand to answer your gardening questions along with having publications and soil test kits available. Doors will open at 9 a.m. and stay open until noon.
  • ‘Ask a Master Gardener’ Clinics in April. Wayne County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers will be holding several ‘Ask a Master Gardener’ clinics at local events in April. Stop by their booth to get answers to your gardening questions along with picking up publications and soil sample kits. Visit them at the following events:
    • Home & Garden Show – April 16th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Sun. April 17th from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Wayne Regional Agriculture Fairgrounds
    • Garden Center on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base – April 30th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
    • Wayne County Reads Festival at Herman Park – May 1st from 1 to 5 p.m.
  • Listen to our new gardening radio show “What’s Growing with Jessica Strickland” on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. The show airs on 730 a.m. WFMC.