If your shrubs look dead most likely it’s not anything you did. It’s because of what happened in the Mid-South just before Christmas with rapid dropping temperatures and wind chills below zero.
According to Wesley Wright, who owns and operates Wright Landscaping, the problem really wasn’t the cold temperatures themselves, it was how quickly it happened. “When weather like that happens, such an extreme drop in temperatures so quickly, plants and shrubs just don’t have time to react,” he said. According to Mr. Wright plants will usually draw water down into their roots and increase the concentration of sugars in their leaves which acts like an antifreeze which helps to keep ice crystals from forming inside the plant cells. But since the weather dropped so quickly the plants didn’t have time to fight the cold.
“In a flash freeze like we experienced that week, the plants didn’t have time to react and the water inside the cells of the plants freezes. Ice crystals are pointed and sharp and, since water expands as it freezes, push outward puncturing the cell walls as they go. Leaves usually take the brunt of the damage, but in some plants, stems may also be damaged. This damage usually takes longer to show up, sometimes it can take months for the damage to be seen,” he said.
What should Lakeland residents do now? “Be patient and do not prune them yet,” Mr. Wright said. The full extent of this damage is not going to be known until spring, and maybe even into summer. If the stems have not been damaged, many plants will leaf back out. But even then, it may take a full season or two for some plants to fully recover.