Darrell Blackwelder column: Avoiding cold damage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 28, 2021

Unpredictable weather can take a toll on landscape plants and flowers, especially those just planted. This fall presented a myriad of varying weather conditions — from extreme drought and high temperatures and now to freezing temperatures, seemingly within a matter of weeks of each other. Most homeowners are concerned on what can be done to protect landscape plants during irregular weather conditions. Below are a few tips that may help reduce winter damage from extreme weather fluctuations.

  • Proper plants — Select plants that are hardy to our region. Rowan County is in climate zone 7b. Many landscape plants are marginal and burn easily with temperature extremes.
  • Mulch — Apply at least 6 inches of course mulch to insulate roots and conserve moisture during the winter months.
  • Do not fertilize in late summer or early autumn with excessive nitrogen. However, plants need to be healthy so keep the plants well fertilized and free from insects and disease during their peak growing season.
  • Avoid heavy pruning. Pruning stimulates new growth which is often killed by late frosts and freezes. Crape myrtles have been killed outright by excessive fall pruning.
  • Irrigate — Keep plants irrigated during dry winter weather conditions. Drought-like conditions predisposes plants to winter injury and cankers. Water acts as an insulator protecting roots during periods of extreme cold weather.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.