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Late Spring Freeze Stressed Trees & Shrubs
by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator
After the week of hard freezing temperatures the first of April, many of our flowering trees and shrubs (and bigger trees) had frozen foliage and flowers. Most trees and shrubs are capable of putting out a second set of leaves (but not flowers) for the rest of the growing season, but that activity stresses the resources of the plants. Because of the stress there are several things you can do to care for these plants and help them get through the rest of the growing season.
Make sure the plant does not suffer from drought for the remainder of the growing season. These plants will need the equivalent of one inch of rainfall per week. Water - once a week is probably fine - when we do not get an inch of natural rain.
Mulch the plant with some form of woody mulch. This can be commercial mulch, wood chips, or similar material. Mulches serve to protect against high temperature and low moisture in the root zone. Place mulch not more than 2 or 3 inches deep around the plant, in a circle that extends out to the edge of its crown. Make sure to leave a open space right next to the bark – don't pile mulch up against the stem/trunk of the plant.
Wait to see how the plant will recuperate. Prune off obviously dead material, and consider pruning to reduce the overall size of the crown of shrubs. A smaller crown will make a smaller demand on the roots for re-growth.
Remember that stressed plants can attract both insects and diseases, so monitor your plants carefully, and treat these other problems if you see them.
Don't panic! Trees especially have seen a lot of abuse and weather in their lifetimes and will weather this event, too. Help them out, but don't give up on their ability to regenerate.
Do not add fertilizer to the plants now. Fertilizer tends to increase top growth on the plants, and the roots are already stressed to produce a new set of leaves. You may add fertilizer this fall to help the plants through the winter.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office
Contact InformationUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln
in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A,
Lincoln, NE 68528