Record Deep Freeze in Texas
March 5, 2021
The weather we experienced in the February 2021 storm was unprecedented, both in how low the temperatures dropped and the duration of those frigid temperatures. Once the snow melted, we were left with lots of brown trees and shrubs.
The hardest hit plants in the area seem to be Live oak trees, Roses, Pittosporum, Ligustrum, Nanina, Abelia, Mahonia, to name a few; plus a host of plants that are borderline-hardy for our region such as palms, certain Agave species, and perennials that are evergreen during typical winters, such as Rosemary. Many of these plants have died from the freezing temperatures and will need to be removed and replaced.
Live Oak Trees Take a Big Hit
It is highly likely that many (if not most) healthy established live oaks will experience sprouting through their canopies this spring as new foliage emerges.
We know that it can be quite traumatic to walk outside & see your beloved, majestic Live Oak completely brown. This ‘burnt’ foliage will likely fall off soon. Arborist, Micah Pace, says “It is highly likely that many (if not most) healthy established live oaks will experience sprouting through their canopies this spring as new foliage emerges." Remember that Live oaks normally shed leaves in the early spring – so they will hopefully push out new leaves at that time.
Smaller & newly planted trees will have the longest road to recovery, especially if they were not well-watered before the deep freeze. Pay particular attention to the trunks, “One other thing to look for, especially in young live oaks, is loose bark along their trunks from the extreme freeze,” said Arborist Scott Dahlberg. This occurs because the bark separates from the cambial tissue.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, we may not know the full extent of the damage to trees and landscape plants right away. The stress or damage may not show until further down the road into this growing season, or even years. Our advice is to take a little time to observe your trees and shrubs before you assume they are completely dead. On small trees, shrubs, and perennials, you can check for green tissue in the stems and branches. If green tissue is present then your plant may push out new spring growth. You may choose to do some pruning on your shrubs, roses, and perennials to clean them and remove tissue and leaves that are obviously dead. If the branch and stem tissue is black or dark brown all the way through the plant, then it may sprout again from the root system, or it may be completely dead. Give everything a little time to see what happens as temperatures warm up.
If conditions are dry, be sure to provide supplemental water to your trees and consider feeding them. We always suggest that stressed trees be placed on an annual fertilization program such as SEASONS Tree Program.
In the meantime, be sure to keep an eye out for loose bark, like Scott suggests, and contact your arborist with any questions and concerns.
Posted: March 5, 2021