100 days later, February winter freeze’s damage to local plants less than originally feared

Some plants may take until June to return

Spring has sprung and with it comes some surprising blooms—even from plants residents thought they lost in the winter storm.

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio gardens may have been more resilient than the power grid during the mid-February freeze.

It’s been 100 days since the start of a winter storm that brought a half-foot of snow and several days of below-freezing temperatures in San Antonio. The freeze not only wreaked havoc on the state’s power grid, leading to extended outages across the state. It caused gardeners across the city to worry about their beloved plants.

Though Brandon Kirby at Rainbow Gardens says some fared worse than others, overall, the damage to local landscapes did not turn out to be as bad as initially feared.

“The good news is that all of these evergreens are starting to flush with growth again. And a lot of these very hardy perennials that we have in our gardens, which grows back and a lot of people thought that they had lost, are coming back from the roots, and they’re looking beautiful now,” Kirby said.

Even now, he says it could be too early to consider a plant gone for good.

“We had said, you know, ‘Wait ‘til mid-April,’ and then we said mid-May, and now I’d even push it out to mid-June,” Kirby said. “OK, a lot of the things that we thought had died are coming back now. You can see it, you know? It’s either pushed out fully and is blooming, or you’re starting to see little, tiny growth on it. But some of those things that you think are dead may not actually be dead.”

A good test is to see if the wood is still pliable or green when you scratch it. That indicates your plant may still have some life yet. Those that are brittle or mushy to the touch are probably better off being replaced, Kirby said.

But if you aren’t sure, patience is the best remedy, which is advice, he says, that also works for fertilization.

It’s getting late season to fertilize, and fertilizing a weak plant could do more harm than good, according to Kirby.

He said if a plant is coming back nicely, you can use a non-burning, time-release fertilizer. However, it’s better to leave alone plants that haven’t yet responded to the heat and rain.

Kirby doesn’t recommend fertilizing trees until fall and says that even trees with still-bare limbs may still come back. So unless a tree appears to have a hazardous, dead branch, it’s also best to just leave it be for now.

The rainier-than-average May could help heal the damage from the colder-than-usual February.

“That rain is going to help everything flush with nice green growth, and it really should kickstart any vitality left in the tree,” Kirby said.


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About the Authors:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.