January and February are typically our coldest months in the Panhandle. Even temperatures above freezing can damage some plants. With a little care, cold damaged plants can recover.
After freezing temperatures and high winds occur, check the soil around your plants. Plants may not be getting the water they need if the soil has either dried out or if the water in the soil is frozen. Watering the area can help defrost the soil and provide your plants with an available source of moisture. Even injured plants need water.
You’ll be tempted to fertilize and prune to speed up recovery, but please resist. Fertilizing too early can encourage new growth before the cold weather season is over, adding to the recovery. Also, some plants are in a dormant to semi-dormant state, and will not take up nutrients, therefore rendering the act of fertilizing useless. Pruning cold-damaged plants right away can be an issue. Although the dead foliage is not pleasant to see, it does help insulate the plant. It’s best to wait until early spring to fertilize and prune most landscape plants. Pay close attention to herbaceous plants (impatiens, begonias, etc.). These plants will collapse after a freeze. It is best to remove them as soon as possible. Bacterial and fungal problems can emerge in a landscape after these plants decay. Remember, lawns will turn drown during these months, as this is a normal winter dormant season for turfgrass.
So, what can I plant now? For annuals and bedding plants, choose plants that can take the chill like dianthus, pansy, viola, and dusty miller. It’s not too late to plant petunia or snapdragon, either. For bulbs, dahlia, crinum, and agapanthus are good choices. Be sure to provide adequate water for establishment and protect them from cold by applying mulch. For the vegetable gardener, potatoes should be planted soon.
So, what can I do? Prune roses in February to remove damaged canes and improve the overall form. After pruning, fertilize and apply a fresh layer of mulch. Blooming will begin 8–9 weeks after pruning! For your lawn, apply a pre-emergence weed killer when temperatures rise to around 60°F for 4–5 days to prevent warm-season weeds. Timing is essential for control.
Following these best management practices will surely help maintain a healthy lawn, landscape or garden. For more information please contact Gulf County Extension at 639-3200.
Supporting information for this article and further information can be found in the following the UF/IFAS EDIS publication: “North Florida Gardening Calendar” by Sydney Park Brown: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/EP/EP45100.pdf
& the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions website: http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/weather/treating-cold-damage.html
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.