Results of Freezing Weather

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After our bitter cold spell, I’ve been getting a number of questions. What plants may have been killed? Will there be fewer insects this year? How will I know when to replace landscape plants?

First let’s review at the old USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. In Angelina County, we are classified as zone 8b, with annual expected lows to reach 15 to 20 F. When you study plant tags in the nursery or in the catalog, anything with a number 8b or lower would be acceptable in our area.

North of us from Tyler to the Red River is zone 8a, with temperatures expected to be as low as 10 to 15 F. To the south in Beaumont and Houston, you’ll find the boundary for zone 9a, with minimum temperatures expected to be only from 20 to 25 F.

So, if we are zone 8b, then we certainly reached the expected low, if not a bit lower. To be sure, we may have lost some of the more tropical plants that we tend to use in the landscape. We are on the edge of survival for many tropical that will get by for years only to be bitten back by a good long freeze like we just experienced. Tropical plants such as palms and citrus the common victims.

A good buddy sent me a picture of his Sago Palm and asked if it had a chance to live. Certainly, the fronds were damaged but the Sago is one of the more cold-hardy palms. According to the literature on it, Sagos will survive to 5 F. Pruning back the fronds should be done on completely dead, badly damaged or diseased plant tissue.

Citrus plants may also have been affected. Just outside my office window are some cuttings of a Meyer lemon that I’ve been trying to root. They look ok right now, but time will tell. At home, an unknown orange tree variety planted in the yard is looking pitiful.

It is best to plant citrus in a large container so that it can be moved into a protected room during really cold weather. Satsumas or mandarins, kumquats, and Meyer lemons are all classified as semi-hardy. And semi-hardy is supposed to work in our part of the state.

The second biggest question I get is about the insects. After a cold spell, many assume there will be fewer insect pests next year. Well… I know the termites and fire ants were snug in underground or (heaven forbid) in the warm walls of a structure.

But what about mosquitos? My friends from Alaska and another from Minnesota know full well that their hard winters are not enough to get rid of mosquitoes. Perhaps there will be fewer problematic garden insects, but what will be the fate of the beneficial insects like ladybugs and honeybees?

I keep bees. I checked my hives on a sunny day earlier this week and my honey bees are doing just fine. Even my starter hives that are in a smaller box that is made of 3/8-inch plywood came through without any problems.

Honestly, I have no idea what the outcome of so many garden pests will be. I do hope all the bad ones die and every beneficial insect survives gloriously. I’m not holding my breath, though.

Lastly, how do you know when to call it quits on a plant that you believe has succumbed to the freeze? I’d give it a few weeks to a couple of months to green up. Remember that the roots were well protected in the soil.

Leaning towards optimism on my orange tree, I’m going to wait as long as possible.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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