UACES Facebook Gardening freeze advice
skip to main content


December 2014

QuestionCould the hard freeze in early Nov have killed my huge Japanese maple? The leaves generally turn brilliant red but this year shriveled brown and still have not fallen? So worried


Answer I do not think your tree was damaged (at least by this freeze), but the early freeze hit before the Japanese maple had completed its life cycle and dropped leaves—so you missed the fall color too. I have one that did the same thing this year—and last year.  Many Japanese maples retained their foliage last year as well until the new growth pushed off the remaining leaves.  Deciduous plants form an abscission layer which causes their leaves to fall off.  If we have an early freeze, the abscission layer doesn’t get finished, and leaves remain on unless wind knocks them off.  We saw a lot of our deciduous plants with messy, dead leaves on them after our early freeze.  Just wait for spring, and keep your fingers crossed that we don’t have a wild and wooly winter! 


January 2013

QuestionOur Granddaddy Grey Beard has been damaged by the snow and ice.  Should we cut it all back so it will reshape evenly or just trim the broken limbs? 

AnswerFor now, I would cut out all broken branches and make the plant more stable.  In the spring after it blooms, do the rest of the shaping.



QuestionOh, help! Now that the ice and snow are gone, is there anything we can do to save the evergreens that are leaning due to the heavy weight of the ice and snow? I have several laurels that supply shade on the west side of the house and I need to save them if at all possible. 

AnswerBy now, many of the plants have up righted themselves at least partially.  If yours are still leaning you can stake them, but do check to make sure any broken branches are pruned out.  Make sure that when you stake them, you don’t bind them too tightly.  You need to leave some wiggle room to strengthen the stems.  If they are bound tightly and can’t move at all, you end up with a weaker plant once you remove the stake.  We may need to do some additional corrective pruning this spring.

December 2012

QuestionWith the frost and cold temps my trailing Lantana is now brown and brittle. When do I cut it back and how much should I cut it? 

AnswerOnce a killing frost occurs, I begin to clean up the spent foliage of annuals and perennials.  Some gardeners prefer to leave the old foliage on lantanas as extra winter protection, but I cut mine back and add a little extra mulch. Lantana is a true perennial in south Arkansas, hit and miss in central Arkansas and usually an annual in north Arkansas.



QuestionI actually spent a little time in my garden this week and I was shocked to see that my hydrangeas are trying to grow again. I have them mulched at the base, but I don’t think I can get mulch high enough to cover them. Should I put sheets or blankets over them whenever it gets cold? I know that the tops have the flowers for next year and I don’t want to lose them. Help!! 

AnswerYou aren’t alone.  These mild periods we have between cold snaps have many plants confused.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot you can do.  Mulching of course helps, but covering with sheets and blankets only gives about 2-3 degrees of protection, and if there is any winter precipitation, the sheets will get bogged down and the weight could break the branches.  If you have a large cardboard box, that you can cover the plants with when it gets way below freezing, that could help some, but we have a long way to go until spring.  Keep your fingers crossed.

January 2012

QuestionMy hydrangeas have all seemed to be budding out. What can I do at this stage of the winter to make sure they don't continue to grow? How can I protect them from damage? Should I cover them with sheets when it is going to be cold? 

AnswerYou are not alone. Many hydrangeas have started sprouting their top buds. The mild, spring-like weather has many thinking spring has sprung. With this much winter left, I don't know how much luck we will have in protecting them. Sheets and blankets will give a few degrees of protection, but if it is raining or other forms of precipitation, the weight of the material can cause limb breakage. If they are small, an inverted cardboard box can help, but again, only a little. Luckily it seems it is just the tips that are breaking dormancy. While those buds do contain the larger flowers, there are still buds further down the stem that can give us blooms. We can only hope for the best at this point! Good luck

February 2011

QuestionI don't know if you can answer this one for me, but I have been wondering if, during the winter months, the birds can get the water they need from the snow, ice, etc., or do they still need water? 

AnswerRegardless of the weather, birds do need water to survive.  There are some heaters that you can put in a bird bath to keep the water from freezing, but they aren’t commonly used in the south.  This year, we sure could have used them.  They can get some water from snow and berries and even insects that they eat, but fresh unfrozen water is preferred and should invite more birds to your yard.  So try to add fresh water to your birdbath and break the surface of ice to provide some water for the birds.


QuestionWe live in Fayetteville. We have a Hibiscus that we have been keeping in the garage for the winter and during days when the temperature does not get below 45 digress we have been putting the plant outside. It has been doing real well until we had the snow and freezing weather about 2 weeks ago. I had left the garage door open while I was scooping snow after that evening I notice the leaves started to curl up and die. Just this last weekend I pulled all the leaves off the limbs and cut about 25% off all the limbs. Have I killed this hibiscus? Can I do something else to help this plant? Will it come back? 

AnswerFirst of all, don’t move your plants in and out during the winter.  Leave them in the garage until you move them out permanently.  The goal is to keep them alive, but not thriving and growing. If they were exposed to below freezing temperatures for any extended time it could be bad.  If they are close to the house and not the open door, it could be just a burn.  Cut them back by half when you move them back outside.  Repot them into a new container and water and wait and see what happens.  Don’t move them outside until mid April to early May.  Good luck.

October 2010

QuestionWe have a huge hydrangea that refuses to bloom although it is beyond a doubt the largest and most beautiful plant in our yard.  We did have some freezing the last two winters.  Should we use some sort of protecting cover on it? I would love to see such a beautiful plant bloom. 

AnswerThe key to hydrangea blooms is to keep it from freezing back.  Big leaf hydrangeas have their flower buds set on the tips of the branches.  Warm spells during the winter often lead them to think spring has sprung, and they break dormancy early.  At that point they are highly susceptible to frost damage.  If the plants get frozen back, there goes your flowers, but they will grow in leaps and bounds.  Watch them closely this winter.  If the buds have green on them and a hard freeze is predicted, consider covering them for extra protection.  Covering can give you several degrees of protection.

November 2010

Question I keep reading that plants should be put under the house or in a garage. Would they be OK in a 6x8 polycarbonate hot house/green house?  Are they to be kept out of light (under house)? We would appreciate any advice. 

AnswerIf you have heat in the 6 x 8 greenhouse, then that would be fine. If it is just a structure, then it won't keep houseplants protected from freezing temperatures. With that small of a structure it is hard to regulate the temperature.  It heats up during the day but freezes at night unless you have heaters.  Venting on bright sunny days is also needed.  Typically the crawl space under your house has enough protection from the house that it protects plants from freezing--the goal in overwintering them.  A garage serves the same purpose as long as you put the plants as close to the house as possible and keep the garage door shut except when pulling in and out.  The plants will not be gorgeous when you bring them out in the spring, like they would from a greenhouse with bright light, but the root system should be in-tact and they can be pruned back and resume growth in the spring.

February 2010

QuestionIs it necessary to cover azaleas with sheets especially when they have buds and are fixing to bloom and they predict a frost? 

AnswerI would be surprised if any azaleas were getting ready to bloom now.  Flower buds were set back in late summer to early fall, but while dormant, they should be ok.  Temperatures have dipped lower than we have seen in fifteen years, and depending on the variety of azalea, there could be some damage to the buds and possibly overall plants, but we need to wait for spring to assess that damage.  Sheets give you two to four degrees of protection and can be worthwhile when the flowers are showing color and/or open and a late frost is predicted.  I would not cover off and on all winter.

May 2007

QuestionDue to incredibly poor and rocky soil, I have planted several large containers of Japanese maples.  One of my Crimson Queens is in a container on my elevated deck, and when we had our little bout with freezes in late March, the elevated container had burned leaves on the side facing away from the house.   I've watched it carefully and see now that it is starting to leaf out again.  Some of the burned leaves appear to still have life on the portion closest to the stems, but they look really ragged.  Should I prune the old burned growth or will the new growth push the older leaves off the stem? 

AnswerYou can actually do either one. If the damaged leaves are unsightly and over half the leaf is intact, lightly shear them off, as they probably will not fall off on their own.  The leaves that were totally burned are being replaced and pushing off the damaged ones.  Be glad that yours are sprouting back at the tips of the limbs; some reports from northern locales are not as encouraging with some dieback.

All links to external sites open in a new window. You may return to the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture web site by closing this window when you are finished. We do not guarantee the accuracy of the information, or the accessibility for people with disabilities listed at any external site.

Links to commercial sites are provided for information and convenience only. Inclusion of sites does not imply University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture's approval of their product or service to the exclusion of others that may be similar, nor does it guarantee or warrant the standard of the products or service offered.

The mention of any commercial product in this web site does not imply its endorsement by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture over other products not named, nor does the omission imply that they are not satisfactory.