Moving forward from freeze-damaged landscapes

Published 5:15 am Wednesday, January 11, 2023

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We experienced a long-lasting freeze at the end of December and hopefully your plants made it through okay. Anything you brought inside is fine but those that had to stay outside may have survived with some harm.

Some plants in our landscapes showed freeze damage immediately while other losses take a week or longer to show. By now you can make a good judgement on the extent of injury and tidy things up. Bear in mind some damage (like split bark) can show up as late as summer.

Some plants such as citrus can react to any shock, including a freeze, by dropping many of their leaves. There’s nothing you can do about it but it will most likely recover. A plant has to be alive to be able to drop its leaves; dead trees (or dead branches) cannot release their dead leaves.

Any part of a plant that’s already turned brown or white will not recover. Instead, you’ll have to prune off these parts. By now you can see how much got frozen; cut that part out and at least a little into healthy tissue. In most cases it’s not a good idea to cut mid-branch. Instead, make a cut at the next nearest junction with another branch or trunk. Don’t leave stubs, as they can give rot an easy in-route.

Some of the freeze injury is asymmetrical and you’ll need to prune a tree or shrub back into shape. In these cases, have a goal in mind. Make several cuts, then stand back and look before making more. You can always cut more but it’s really hard to put branches back on!


If you want to know more about gardening, landscaping, or anything else horticultural, contact the St. John & St. James Parishes Horticulture Extension Agent André Brock at Also, the LSU Ag Center’s website can be accessed at with lots of user-friendly information, including this article.