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Thursday - December 10, 2009

From: Brady, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Pruning, Seasonal Tasks, Shrubs
Title: Freeze damage to esperanza in pot from Brady TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


My esperanza, currently in a container, has suffered some freeze damage. I have prepared a planting spot for it and am not sure whether to plant now, trim it back if I do plant it, etc. I would appreciate your recommendations for this whole process.


We have three questions on the docket regarding what to do after the sudden hard freeze that occurred recently in Central Texas; in fact, we are still dipping below freezing at night frequently. With your permission, we will address all three first as a group, and then, for each question, the individual plants involved. One thing that applies in every case is, don't fertilize. Plants should be fertilized in the Spring, when you want to encourage new shoots to appear. The last thing you want to do is encourage new shoots now that will put more stress on already-stressed roots and probably just get frozen back again.

You may already know what happened; actively growing plants still have water in their upper structure, particularly the leaves. A sudden hard freeze causes that water to expand, bursting cell walls in the leaves, and they quickly turn dark and look pathetic. What made this freeze worse was that it was earlier than we ordinarily expect these conditions in this part of Texas, very sudden, temperatures went down very far, and remained below freezing for several hours. A gradual decrease in temperature over a period of time increases the ability of plants or plant parts to withstand cold temperatures. A sudden decrease in temperature in late fall or early winter usually results in more damage than the same low temperature in January or February.

Here is information from our Native Plant Database on Tecoma stans (yellow trumpetbush):
"Conditions Comments: Yellow bells produces great, yellow, attention-grabbing blossoms. The plant will not tolerate extreme cold well, but cutting it back to the ground in winter can help maintain yellow bells in your spring and summer landscape."

Your real problem is that your plant was still in the (probably) plastic pot from the nursery. As you can see from the information above, the leaves and upper stems ordinarily die back, anyway, and then resprout when warm weather returns in the Spring. However, the damage to the roots may be a more severe problem. A plant in a pot has only the very small insulation of the potting soil and the thin piece of plastic around the roots; a plant in the ground has the warmth of the earth all around it. Ordinarily, our advice on a plant that experienced die-back from freezing would be to wait a few days, as more damage may become evident, and then prune. However, in your case, we really don't know if your plant is going to survive. The best advice we can give is, on the first warmer day, get those roots into the ground. Hopefully, the hole you have prepared has some compost mixed in which will help with good drainage that the esperanza needs but also, as the compost decomposes it will produce some more warmth to help those roots. Get some water into the hole, but don't let the water stand on the surface. Then, mulch the root area with a good quality shredded hardwood mulch. Go ahead and prune to the ground as mentioned in our database, and hope for the best. You have done all you can, and since the esperanza is a pretty tough plant, we think it will sprout in the Spring and live again. 

From our Native Plant Database:


Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans





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