Here’s what to know and do for tender new growth on trees, shrubs and other perennials

New spring growth is always a sight for sore eyes after winter. This year, it was like a natural balm for everything that ailed us. We were inside. A little (or a lot) anxious. And we needed some good news.

But just as things turned green and new buds were in full swing, we had a few nights of below freezing temps. Mother Nature picked a heck of a time for a practical joke.

Many people are asking:

‘What do the brown flowers, crispy and blackened foliage mean?’

‘Will this late-season hard freeze do long-term damage to my trees, shrubs and perennials?’ and

‘What can I do to help them recover?’


1) Late spring freezes are nothing new in Indiana.  

As we looked through our notes, 2017 gave us a really early, warm spring and the same hard-freeze whammy we’re dealing with now. Brown flowers and leaf edges, crispy, blackened or spotted foliage and a shriveled or tattered appearance are definitely signs of damaged tissue. I’ve noticed it particularly on my Japanese Maples, Magnolias, Boxwood and Yews. This affected growth normally goes limp and eventually leaves die and drop. You can also gently remove any dead tissue. If you’re not sure, leave it there to see if it bounces back.

Don’t despair. We’ve learned a few things over the years on how to move forward with confidence.

2) Most trees, shrubs and perennials will recover.

In almost all cases, this is a temporary setback. Otherwise healthy trees, shrubs and perennials  will bounce back with another round of growth within a few weeks.

3) Feed with fertilizer now and again this fall.   

It’s pretty amazing how resilient these trees and plants actually are. They will rally, but they will benefit from a little assistance.

Since temperatures will reliably rest above freezing moving forward, we will be watering in a dose of Elements in our own yards and landscapes. This low-grade fertilizer will not burn roots, and it adds valuable micronutrients to the soil that bolster plants’ recovery, now and later.

We recommend a dose now and one again in fall to prepare your plants for the following spring.

4) Deeply water during hot summer months.

Your trees, shrubs and plants will be a bit more susceptible to extreme heat and dry periods. So be sure to water deeply (i.e. on a slow trickle for 15-20 minutes) a couple of days a week. The best way to know if your tree needs water is to check about 18inches beneath the surface. If it’s dry, water thoroughly.

Another great way to preserve moisture and keep roots cool is to add a fresh layer of quality mulch before the height of summer heat.

Please let us know if you have any questions on how to help specific varieties of trees, shrubs and perennials recover and thrive. Email us, chat with us or call or stop in anytime.

10 responses to “Worried about the latest hard spring freeze?”

  1. Jerri says:

    Thanks for the reassuring words. My son is convinced that the droopy plants arr dead.

  2. Patricia Garakian says:

    Thank you so much for your reassurances. I was concerned about my 3-year-old Sweet Bay Magnolia; it is not looking good with its crispy new growth!

  3. Janet Kendall says:

    Will begonias that were frosted be able to come back?

    • karen thacker says:

      Begonias are very tender. Chances are no unfortunately. If you do not see any healthy leaves then they were probably frozen.

  4. Rickee says:

    Hello, My very aged Japanese maple is losing leaves like it is fall. The top is almost gone. I just moved into my home so I am new to this lovely tree. Do you think this is caused by the late frost?! and will it get leaves again this year or will I have to wait until next? anything I can do for her? she’s such a beautiful tree!!!

    • Dana Altum says:

      It most likely is from the late freeze. It should push new foliage however it could take most of the spring/summer to produce. I would recommend giving it Elements fertilizer right now.

  5. Shawna M says:

    Can I cover a small seedling tree with a garbage bag to protect the leaves?

  6. Alane says:

    After a few tough years, my big lilac is finally producing a bush full of blooms! However, I’m worried about the cold on these lovely smelling blooms. Can I cover my bush with a sheet?

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