Tips to keep your plants healthy in all conditions

Learn how to recognize plant damage and what to do to help them recover from the freeze

Tips for healthier plants in all conditions | SA Live | KSAT 12
Tips for healthier plants in all conditions | SA Live | KSAT 12

San Antonio – With just about everyone’s plants and trees suffering some level of damage from the surprise snow storm that Texas endured, it left many wondering what could they have done differently to better prepare their plants, not only for a freeze but for all weather conditions.

Luckily Jess Divin, a certified Arborist and district manager of Davey’s East San Antonio office, has provided the tips and hints needed to improve the all around health of our plants at home.

For starters, Divin mentions the four ways to recognize if your plants and trees have been damaged, unharmed, or if they have completely died:

  1. Tip dieback - the thinner parts at the ends of limbs were frozen and died back. You can test for this with the “bend test” to see if the limbs snaps, which means it is dead, or bends without breaking, meaning the limb is healthy.
  2. Leaf loss - Many trees in Texas such as evergreens, Texas mountain laurels, and live oaks tend to keep their leaves throughout the year, but with the extremely cold temperatures they experienced many of them will lose their leaves.
  3. Bark splitting - This is caused by water in the limbs freezing and cracking the bark, causing it to pull away from the limb. Here you can use the “scratch test” to scratch away some of the bark on the limb and determine its health by the color of the limb underneath. Greener always meaning healthier.
  4. Weeping - Moisture oozing out of the bark or branches and causing a discoloration also represents a sign of damage and distress by the plant.

So once you have assessed your plants and trees and recognized which of them show signs of damage, how can you save them?

Divin’s biggest piece of advice is to be patient. With temperatures as cold as we experienced, trees and plants will recover much slower.

Here are some things you can do to help assist with the recovery of your plants:

  • Make sure they are receiving adequate water from rainfall (1 inch per month), and providing supplemental water for the plant if it is a dry month.
  • When watering plants and trees, water them in the area between the trunk and the edge of the plant’s canopy known as the “drip line”
  • Stay away from fast acting fertilizers, unless having consulted with an arborist, because they tend to burn plants. So stick to slow release fertilizers when you do use them.

As far as long term preparedness goes, in order to be ready for the next freeze, Divin advises planting frost susceptible plants in sheltered areas that would be protected from icy winds.

However, even with all of these great tips, there can still be a level of uncertainty as to what is the best solution for your plants and trees. That is where you should turn to an arborist, visit the Davey website to have and expert come look at your situation and determine what the best course of action to get your plants and trees healthy again.