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Landscaping After Snowpocalypse 2021! Print E-mail

Winter Storm 2021 Since the sun is out and temperatures are warming, it’s time to get started on spring cleanup for our freeze damaged yards. Once you’ve cleared out the plants that did not survive the cold, consider it an opportunity to replace them with hardier substitutes that might have a better chance if we see freezing temperatures again in the future. But remember that a complete refurbishment of or change to your existing landscape design will require prior approval from the homeowners association, including tree removals/replacements. Replacing a few dead plants here and there does not require application or approval and we will certainly be giving everyone a few more weeks to get things cleaned up. But don’t wait too long because spring is around the corner and we want our community to be beautiful and flourish during the coming months. So here are a few helpful tips from our friends at Texas A&M to help you determine what is needed in your yard!

Palm trees
 
Native Sabal minor palm trees tolerate freezes in most years. Most other palms won’t make it. If the center bud is firm, the plant might survive. Cut off drooping, dead or damaged leaves. If your palm has a rotting crown, or you can easily pull fronds out of the trunk, it won’t come back. If you’re unsure, however, give it plenty of time to recuperate. If the plant still has green in the crown, you may be in luck. Instead of pruning, spray with a copper-based fungicide and repeat in 10 days. From March through September, apply palm fertilizer with trace elements every other month.
 
Cycads – Sago palms
 
Many South Texas gardeners enjoy the drama of large Sago palms in their landscapes. Not actually palms, Sagos are cycads. They generally tolerate temperatures down to 15 degrees. Frost-damaged leaves turn yellow or brown and should be removed. If the trunk and leaf crown are hard wood, it should recover. If the trunk turns soft, your sago might be damaged beyond recovery. After the freeze of 2010, Sagos across town were devastated but most had no crown damage. By summer, new leaves emerged and the plants thrived.
 
Cacti
 
Crumbled mounds of mush, prickly pear cacti simply disintegrated all over town. There might be hope for some of them, however, depending on the species. Some varieties of Optunia are hardy to 15, 10 or 0 degrees. Cacti are very sensitive to the timing of pruning. While their dying pads and stems look terrible, it is important to wait until it is really warm to prune them. Then dust the big cuts with sulfur to help dry out the cuts. Jointed cacti regenerate really well, but the columnar ones should be cut back to the base or you will just end up with a permanent stump. If the plant is oozing, you can remove it now.
 
Succulents
 
We know some plants simply aren’t cold hardy. Many agaves, cacti and other succulents won’t survive after the prolonged deep freeze and snow. A handful of species might have weathered the storm, and you’ll know if there is hope if you have a firm center inside the collapsed outer leaves.
 
Shrubs and woody perennials
 
Days on end of single-digit weather and wet snow spelled the end of the road for even the most established woody perennial plants. You can remove them at any time — they won’t be coming back. Established shrubs could be a different story….If you don’t know your exact variety, the best approach is to cut them back to green wood. Once you see green inside the cut, stop. If you don’t see any green, simply cut it back to the ground and be very patient. It may come back from the roots, given a few months. For hardy flowering bushes, early March is when we can expect to be past the last frost, so wait until then to address plants such as lantana, hibiscus, esperanza, plumbago, oleander or firebush. Then, if you can scratch the plant’s surface and there is green underneath, it will be OK. Plants such as angel’s trumpet may look a mess above ground, but their roots could still be good. You could trim these back to the base and let new shoots sprout from the roots. Azaleas and camellias that already had flower buds are likely damaged; the flowers may not survive, but the bushes themselves probably can. LOOK FOR CRACKS OR SPLITS ON TRUNKS! Almost any plant that has “a trunk” or multiple trunks need to be scanned for cracks. Cracks are the worst sign possible, because they mean moisture inside the trunk froze, expanded, and burst out through them. They also mean freezing temps got into the plant. There will be a plant or two with a single crack that might be salvageable, but in general, a plant with multiple cracks won’t recover. Those with single cracks may be worth trying to save with a spray of copper fungicides.
 
Fruit Trees
 
Fruit-bearing trees such as citrus, fig, olive and avocado will likely have leaves that turn brown. If they were already in bloom, those blooms are lost; if not, it means the limbs will have better tolerated the cold. When the weather gets warm again, tree leaves will wither, turn brown and die. When withered leaves fall off a tree, that’s a good thing. If they wither and stick tight to the plant, then the branch is probably dead. Wait to prune anything from these trees. After you can see what’s really dead on tree limbs, trim branches to about a half-inch above the part that has died. LOOK FOR CRACKS OR SPLITS ON TRUNKS! Almost any plant that has “a trunk” or multiple trunks need to be scanned for cracks. Cracks are the worst sign possible, because they mean moisture inside the trunk froze, expanded, and burst out through them. They also mean freezing temps got into the plant. There will be a plant or two with a single crack that might be salvageable, but in general, a plant with multiple cracks won’t recover. Those with single cracks may be worth trying to save with a spray of copper fungicide.
 
Flowers
 
If you left containers of more fragile flowers fully exposed, they’re probably a soggy mess and completely dead. The same goes for in-ground flowering plants such as impatiens, begonias, angelonias, pentas and ferns. Cut off or remove anything that’s a soggy mess and see what bounces back. Roses, however, are among the hardiest survivors, and we’re at the time of year when we’d prune them back for spring growth anyway. If you haven’t already, go ahead and prune and watch them flourish in weeks to come.
 
Grass/Sod
 
If you feel confident that we will get no more hard freezes, it's time to “scalp” the yard. Essentially, you'll try to vacuum up any dead grass so live roots are open to air, sunshine, water and fertilizer. But you need to wait a full two weeks after the last freeze before you do this. Scalping is done with the mower deck lowered a notch or two. Years ago, a scalping would mean lowering the mower by 2-4 notches. These days, though, we know its better to give the lawn more of a "haircut." Otherwise, just rake out as much debris/dead grass thatch as possible also rake and remove any more dropped tree leaves and skip the mowing. As you might suspect, another hard freeze could actually kill a scalped lawn.
 
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