Protecting Already Freeze and Frost Damaged Plants

For freeze and frost damaged plants is it worth the effort to continue protecting them when more cold weather is in the forecast? Yes, don’t give up on your damaged plants. We recommend protecting plants even if damaged from past freezes and frost like they experienced here in Northeast Florida in December 2022.

Be sure to use a reliable weather forecasting source such as the National Weather Service.

Learn to recognize the difference between plants that will die back and produce new stems and foliage in Spring and those that won’t come back. Freeze and frost damage on herbaceous plants can be noticeable immediately, while the damage to woody plants and palms will take longer to show. The soft, flexible stems and foliage of damaged herbaceous plants may turn from green to brown or purple and become mushy.

To complicate matters, if Winter temperatures rise to over 70F between freeze and frost events, fungus can attack those mushy areas causing further damage. Treat mushy parts of the plant like an infected wound. Remove as much of the mushy parts as possible to reduce the risk of attracting pests to the affected area. A fungal spray application can be in order.


freezing and frost damage ahead
Palms freeze and frost damage

For woody-stemmed plants, use your fingernail to scratch-test the outer area of bark in search of green tissue. If so, that part of the plant is alive. You can also cut a stem sample to look for a hollow center, indicating that the stem has died.

Although the freeze and frost dieback can be unsightly, it’s best to leave it on the plant for additional protection and not prune it until typically after your area’s last frost date. Excessive pruning during Winter to freeze and frost damage plants encourages new growth too early. That new growth would be susceptible to a greater risk of additional freeze and frost damage.

The least cold hardy palm varieties can also be harmed by freezing temperatures, frost, and rapid chilling temperatures below 40-45F. The least harmful form of injury is from the rapid chilling resulting in browning and death of some palm fronds. Frost damage can look similar and take more than a year to fully recover, while a hard freeze can weaken or kill the apical meristem resulting in the death of the palm.

Any weakening of the palm health from cold weather puts them at greater risk from pests and fungal diseases. Fungicides sprayed on the apical meristem after cold damage in Winter can reduce the risk of fungal damage.

“Freezing temperatures also can cause the stems of some species, including queen and silver palms, to split longitudinally,” according to Louisiana State University. “These splits are later colonized by decomposing organisms, resulting in softening of the stem. As the decomposition progresses, vascular tissue rots, interrupting the water and nutrient supply. In some instances, palms break in the middle at the affected area.”


Fungal infections of plants during the warm seasons can cause further problems for plants trying to recover from freeze and frost damage. “While Entomosporium Leaf Spot is mostly dormant for the winter, the spots show clearly that the plant has been heavily infected during the previous growing; the infection most likely began last year after a rainy spring,” according to Soils Alive. “The fungal disease made the plants more susceptible to freeze damage this winter. While we didn’t have a lot of cold weather, we did have a few hard freezes that followed warm weather. When plants aren’t acclimated to the cold, you’ll often see more freeze damage, or lose more plants when hard freezes do happen.”

Additionally, freezing temperatures will impact your sod. “Freezing is not good for sod root growth, so while freezing may not kill the sod, it will basically stop root growth meaning a longer “grow in” period where more water and care is needed, and other factors may be the culprit of problems, (Fungus etc that are common in our mild winters)” according to Lance Roberson of

Although Christmas 2022 was one of the coldest in Northeast Florida history and the area plant damage is extensive improvements in freeze and frost damaged plants is possible with good cultural practices, mulching, and protecting them from the potential remaining seasonal damaging weather events.  

firespike freeze and frost damage plant


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