In case you were wondering . . . Mother Nature is in charge. Always!
This past winter was pretty brutal in many parts of the United States with temperatures dipping much lower than normal. Here in Ohio we typically see days in the single digits during January and February, but it’s usually only a few days, and at times it might get near zero. This winter was different!
We were routinely in the single digits and below zero for days at a time. Many days at ten below zero and a day or two at fifteen degrees below zero. Needless to say, many plants were damaged. The things that got hit the hardest were Boxwood, English Hollies, Japanese Hollies, Hydrangea and Japanese maples.
Here in the nursery I have hundreds and hundreds of Japanese maples and I am very happy to report that most made it through the winter completely unscathed. We had a few varieties that got hit pretty hard. Of those Butterfly, Orange Dream, Lions Head and Orida Nishiki suffered the most damage. Some were totally killed, many of the Orida Nishiki did not make it. But all in all I was amazed at the Bloodgood and Iniba Shidare Japanese maples. The are absolutely beautiful this spring.
How to Save a Winter Damaged Plant.
If you have plants that are winter damaged you should follow these simple steps.
1. Be patient. Don’t rush things, don’t try and rush your plants back to health.
2. Don’t write off a plant as a total loss right away. They are damaged, in pain, give them a chance to bounce back. It might be mid June before winter damaged plants start to show signs of life.
3. Do a scratch test. This is how you test to see if a plant, or a branch on a plant has died. Just scratch the bark of your plants with your finger nail. If the tissue below the bark is green and firm your plants are fine. If the tissue is brown and mushy that part of the plant is dead.
4. Eventually you’ll want to prune away any and all dead branches, but only after you are certain that those branches are dead.
5. Do not fertilize plants that are struggling or under stress. Just leave them be. The plants know what to do and they will, if you only leave them alone while they nurse themselves back to health.
I have a number of very mature Japanese maples in my landscape at home that have been winter damaged. Most are showing a small amount of new growth, but only 15 or 20 percent of what they should doing right now. I’m just going to wait them out. Experience tells me that once they get their feet back under them, they’ll take off and recover completely. It won’t be fast, but it’s worth waiting for.
I hope this helps. Post your questions or comments below.