Plant Care After a Cold Snap

February 20, 2023

Cold snaps have hit across the country this winter, many to unsuspecting and unprepared areas. With temperatures dropping significantly for days or even weeks at a time, freeze damage is inevitable. If you have noticed your plants turning from lively and green to wilted and dead, don’t jump to extremes and begin removing them.  

As bad as they look, many plants you see are probably not dead. Most brown or black plants that appear dead after a cold snap will have green, live stems and branches further back in the plant if you look closely. As you assess damage to your plants following cold weather, consider the following: 


Pruning stimulates new growth. 

Before you consider pruning, remember that pruning will stimulate new growth. If you aren’t confident that the final frost of the winter is over, wait to prune to avoid damage to the new season’s growth. The added benefit of leaving on dead branches or stems until spring is that they will protect the healthy part of the plant that is deeper inside. 

Many plants will outgrow their damage by spring.  

For most plants, we recommend a wait-and-see approach. It is hard to determine what will grow out and what will not just by looking at the plant following weather damage. Be patient and wait until spring, when you can determine if the plant is salvageable. In many cases, you will find that some spring pruning is needed to remove dead and damaged parts of the plant. 

If you needed to prune anyways, move forward. 

There will be some cases where pruning immediately following a cold snap is necessary. If you were planning rejuvenation pruning, continue as planned, as dormant plants will flush out soon with spring growth. If your plants have overgrown their space or are encroaching on walkways, you’ll also want to move forward and prune before spring comes for general maintenance. 


We understand that patience can be challenging when looking at your plants throughout the winter months. If you are questioning whether or not to prune a following freeze damage, we encourage you to research the specific plant and determine the best course of action for its individual health.