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Monday - December 19, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Frost damage to native plants in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hello, We bought a number of native plants at this fall's WFC sale and planted them. The recent frost seems to have defoliated our pitcher sage, beautyberry, butterflyweed, and flame acanthus plants (I did cover them them with burlap). Will these recover in spring? Thanks, Raj


You did a splendid job of selecting plants at our semi-annual Plant Sale, and thanks for coming. Every one of those plants is native to the area, but of course you know that because that is what we sell at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sales-plants that will survive our sometimes extreme weather and like our soils. All of these plants are deciduous, so it should be no surprise that they are defoliating. If you had them already in the ground the earth around them is the best insulator there is. If they were still in pots when the frosts occurred, the exposure of their roots to the cold might have accelerated the leaf drop but should not have killed them. In fact, it is hard to avoid transplant shock to some degree any time a plant is moved, but we don't think that is a major concern in this case.

All the plants you selected are perennial, which means they will return from their roots in the Spring, if they were properly planted. We hope that you made provisions for  drainage in our clay soils, and you might consider mulching the soil around them, which will improve the soil, hold in moisture, and protect the roots from cold and heat. Of course, even with well cared for native plants, damage is always possible, but we think you have a very good chance of having some beautiful and hardy plants re-emerging in the Spring. If you want any more information, you can follow the plant links below to our webpages on the individual plants.

Salvia azurea (Pitcher sage)

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus)


From the Image Gallery

Flame acanthus
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Pitcher sage
Salvia azurea

Asclepias tuberosa

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