What to do in the Garden After a Frost or Freeze

By Brandi Keller
Harris County Master Gardener Program Coordinator

Frost and freeze damage may appear immediately or show up weeks later. When it does, many of us are left wondering if our plants can be salvaged. First and foremost, do not prune them. It’s not clear if all cold weather has passed, and pruning will encourage new growth and make the plant even more susceptible to frost and freeze damage. Instead, give yourself time to assess the damage.

Here are a few things to watch for during the recovery period:

  • Tropical plants that appear dead may come back from the ground or develop new growth from the stems. Once spring arrives, you can prune all dead material above the new growth.
  • Woody plants are resilient. Plants that had buds or new growth before a freeze are usually healthy and can survive a freeze. They will usually flush out another set of leaves on their own. The buds of flowering plants and trees may sustain damage during icy weather, so expect smaller flower or fruit yields.
  • Prune dead palm fronds in the spring.
  • Although dead, dry plant material should be left until spring, remove soft or mushy leaves and stems immediately to reduce the risk of disease. If you cannot tell what is dead, then leave it for a few weeks.

For more information, check out Care of Freeze-Damaged Plants by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.