How to Care for Plants After a Freeze


Most gardeners protect their native plants with a layer of mulch or by moving them indoors when the threat of frost occurs. Sheets, blankets or plastic are also effective forms of frost protection in lieu of mulch, or for plants that are too big to bring indoors. Nevertheless, even the most attentive gardener can be blindsided by an unexpected deep freeze. When this happens, plants will require special care to help reverse the damage.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Sharp scissors
  • Help trees recover from a freeze by removing dead leaves and twigs. Use a pair of pruning shears to cut away damaged twigs. Pull dead leaves off by hand.

  • Remove the damaged foliage from perennials exposed to frost. Growth begins deep inside of most perennial plants, so pinching off the dead leaves with your fingers and removing damaged stems with a pair of sharp scissors will help the plant focus on new growth.

  • Improve the recovery of your conifers after exposure to frost by cutting the foliage back. If the conifer has not dropped its needles after exposure to freezing temperatures, and new growth is emerging, simply remove the damage. Use a pair of pruning shears to cut the dead foliage off, leaving only the new growth.

  • Cut back damaged, fast-growing shrubbery. Quick growing shrubs, such as hydrangea, can recover faster from a deep freeze if you remove dead stems and leaves with a pair of pruning shears.

  • Restore vigor to ornamental grasses after exposure to freezing temperatures by trimming away frost-damaged tissue. Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the damaged ornamental grass down to the soil line.

Tips & Warnings

  • Annuals and tropical plants usually have no tolerance for freezing temperatures. If the leaves of the plant have died as a result of the frost, chances are the plant will not survive.
  • Remove damaged tissue from rose bushes. Removal of dead tissue with a pair of pruning shears will encourage new growth.
  • Leave slow-growing shrubs, such as viburnum and lilac, alone. It can take years for them to grow back to their previous size if you cut them back. Instead, run your hands over the stems, gently removing the dead foliage. Let nature take care of the rest.

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  • Photo Credit Frost image by Angelika Bentin from
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