Gardeners will have to learn to like ugly in the new year – Houston Chronicle

Gardeners will have to learn to like ugly in the new year – Houston Chronicle

Happy New Year to all! But before we get to our new year resolutions, let’s focus on our outdoor foliage friends.

You may recall the advice after Winter Storm Uri to hold off on pruning trees, shrubs and perennials until the danger of frost/freeze is over. The same holds true now, but even more so, since we still have the entire winter season ahead of us.

A phrase that became popular was “learn to like ugly.” Do not inflict damage on plants because of how they appear right now. 

With so many variables, we cannot know the extent of damage to our landscape just yet. Only time will tell. Here are things to consider:

•    Our landscape suffered a significant drought this past summer. Despite rain in the fall, woody shrubs and trees are still dealing with the effects and this could magnify freeze damage.

•    There was no gradual cooling off period. The shock from warm weather to cold may affect plants differently than Winter Storm Uri. 

•    Soil moisture at time of freeze, proximity to house, location of afternoon sun, intensity of wind will all vary the results the freeze had on our gardens.

•    Leave plants ugly. It is advice solely for the well-being of the plant.

•    Cut foliage that has turned mushy, gooey or oozy to prevent the spread of disease.

•    Wait to see if cool season annuals bounce back.

•    Leave woody perennials/tropicals alone for now. Prune in spring after new growth appears.

•    Leave woody shrubs and trees alone. Prune in the spring.


.•    Signs of freeze damage include deflated-looking leaves drooping to the ground, discolored leaves (brown or black), bark splitting and branch dieback.

Annuals, biennials, perennials and tropical plants

Herbaceous plants have flexible, not woody, stems that do not survive below-freezing temperatures. Freezing and thawing temperatures cause tender plant tissue to expand and collapse. Damage may appear as mushy tissue on foliage and stems, as die-back to the ground (hardy roots will grow new stems after winter), or as a complete plant loss.

Remove the mushy, slimy tissue. After letting the soil dry out a few days, add mulch in case of another freeze event. Leave everything else alone until the danger of winter has passed. Dried plant material serves as protection to the rest of the plant if there is another cold snap.

Cool season annuals, like pansies and ornamental kale and cabbage, may be fine. Give them time to recover and water the soil if dry.

Pentas, blue daze and angelonia are likely done. I waited in vain for angelonia to come back afer Uri.

 Tender perennials will exhibit the most damage in the form of  mushiness. Begonia, society garlic, agapanthus, canna, ginger, banana, philodendron and succulents are examples of plants that may …….