|Winter Leaf Scorch,|
U DE, R. Mulrooney
Plants vary tremendously in their tolerance to cold temperatures. The U.S.D.A. publishes a Hardiness Zone Map that is based on decades of data and indicates Atlanta is in Zone 8A. This is used as a guide when choosing plants. Crabapple recommends the selection of plants that are reliably cold hardy in our area, and then excellent maintenance during the growing season, as the two best ways to guard against cold damage. Factors that affect plant selection include minimum and maximum daily temperatures, difference between day and night temperatures, and average daytime and nighttime temperatures. Location/site/microclimate in the landscape also plays a role.
Winter Burn or Desiccation InjuryAtlanta is filled with needle leaf evergreens (pine) and broad leaf evergreens such as camellias, tea olives, holly, anise and boxwood that keep the winter landscape green. Unfortunately, the broad leaf evergreens are more prone to winter burn or leaf desiccation injury than dormant, deciduous trees and shrubs.
|Winter Leaf Burn,|
photo Glen Jacobsen
|Freeze injury to Camellia|
blossoms, Geri Laufer
Container plants are more vulnerable to polar cold snaps than in-ground landscape plants and will benefit from some protection. Containerized nursery stock have small, above ground root balls that freeze easily, and newly planted bare uoot or balled-and-burlapped plants with their reduced root systems, are also very susceptible.
One method of protection: remove branches from discarded Christmas trees (plentiful this week) and lay over the tops of nursery flats or pots. Then bury the whole area in fallen leaves. (Do not cover with plastic, because direct sun hitting the plastic can steam-cook the crops.)
As for woody ornamentals planted in decorative accent containers, wooden, foam or plastic planters usually come through freezes just fine, but clay pottery can break if subjected to freezing temperatures. Move them to an unheated garage for a day or two to get over the worst of the weather.
|Winter injury, thin bark split|
U of OH, "split happens"
Freeze cracks/sun scald
Sometimes it isn't really the cold temperatures that cause problems, but rapid fluctuations between warmth and cold as temperatures climb and plunge. Bark on some trees may split on the southwest side due to rapid temperature changes. Thin-barked trees such as cherries and maples are most likely to crack. Shade protection or wrapping with tree wrap may give protection against frost cracks. If thin-bark trees have split, call Crabapple LandscapExperts to shape and clean the wounds so they can heal over properly.
Frost injury typically occurs in low-lying frost pockets, especially at the beginning or end of the cold season, when summer annuals and vegetables can get that “wilted lettuce look” or camellia petals or early-blooming magnolia flowers are turned brown in a late cold snap. Delicate petals and new leaves are the most susceptible to frost damage. One way to avoid frost damage is to select late-flowering cultivars that bloom in the spring instead of the early ones.
|Winter Frost Heave,|
Missouri Botanical Garden
Soil heaving results from alternate freezing and thawing of the soil and is rarely a problem in metro-Atlanta. Shallow perennial plant roots are pushed out of the soil leaving them exposed to cold and drying winds. Good root establishment helps to protect from heaving, but some plants (mums, strawberries) have characteristically shallow roots and are prone to heaving.
Replant perennials that have been tossed out of the ground and water-in. Reduce heaving with an application of organic mulch, such as 3 inches of pine straw, wood chips or shredded leaves. Snow cover (also rare in metro-Atlanta) also acts as an insulation for perennials and often prevents heaving.