Cold weather can damage plants

By LEANNE MCGEE,

Unlike animals that escape to safety when the temperatures drop, plants have to withstand whatever comes their way. The cold temperatures can cause future damage to our plants. Some symptoms of cold damage may not even be seen until the hot summer weather.

Plants have to prepare themselves for colder temperature by reducing the amount of free water (xylem) and food (phloem) carrying vessels. If plants don’t reduce the amount of free water, ice forms between the plants cells. The

 ice draws water from the cells themselves, causing the cells to weaken or collapse.

If the phloem is injured, fewer nutrients will be carried to the roots which may stunt the plants growth. If the xylem is injured, less water will be provided to the branches and leaves. 

Plants that had little time to prepare themselves for the cold will be more severely injured than those that cooled more slowly. Weakened plants may seem to emerge from dormancy and flower just fine, but once the plant uses up its resources symptoms may appear.

Symptoms may be worse in the hot summer. The foliage needs extra water during the hot weather to help keep the plant cool. In a cold injured plant, not enough water and nutrients can make it past the injured areas to replace this water. Such damage may appear in branches here and there.

Begin checking for cold damage this spring. Examine trunks, branches and limbs for cold damage. Remove the affected branches and limbs. Nothing can be done for split trunks. Prune the dead wood back to healthy areas once leafing has occurred.

This will not only improve the looks of the plant, but also keep out insects and diseases.

Be aware of cold damage, but don’t blame everything on it. Damage can also be caused by herbicide or fertilizer damage.

For more recommendations on pruning and fertilizers call the MSU Extension office in Decatur at 601-635-7011.