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Assessing Your Plants After Freezing Temperatures

January 29, 2015

Winter in Arizona can bring overnight freezing temperatures which can take a toll on many plants and landscaping. If you’re unsure if a plant is dead or alive, here are some tips that may be useful to consider:

  • Try the “scrape test”. With your fingernail, scrape the black stem: if it reveals green beneath, it’s alive. If not, be patient. The root system may be healthy and the plant may still come back. Growth and flowering this summer may be sparse, but give it time.
  • As you see signs of buds/new growth, cut back to the area of new growth.
  • Consider the root. A plant can appear dead, but a firm white root, tuber or bulb assures the plant may still have life stored away and with proper conditions and care, will come back- possibly taking much longer than expected.
  • CITRUS: If new growth of citrus is occurring only at the base trunk, the desirable citrus is probably lost and only root stock remains. It’s time to replace the tree.
  • PALMS: Give any palms that lost their frawns until August to send up new growth before making the decision to remove them.
  • CACTUS: Cut off mushy or black parts they may re-bud at those points.

Things to consider when replacing your dead plants:

  • Given our intense summers, planting in the Fall is generally easier for plants than planting in the Spring. Plants native to our area will typically stand a better chance of surviving than non-native plants. Planting zone information is available at:
  • Planting less cold hardy plants in microclimates that are warmer in the winter (such as against a heat holding brick wall, under a roof hanging, closer proximity to house, south vs. north facing) can increase their chances of survival during cold spells.

Consult Pima County Cooperative Extension (520) 626-5161 or your local nursery/landscaper more information.