Frost/Freeze Damaged: Plumbago & Cordyline

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

Living near the coast in SC, I haven't had to deal with winter damaged plants since I moved here in 2006. Our winters have been very mild until this year. After the recent Arctic Blast (temps in the high teens for several hours), a few plants are showing signs of damage and I would like advice on how to take care of them.

Although I covered most of my plants on the nights where freezes were expected, some were still damaged.

1) (Pic 1) One of my Blue Plumbago shrubs had ice on the some of them stems after I uncovered it. I let the ice melt naturally in the sun. Once it was melted, I noticed the outer layer of bark disappeared with the ice and all I saw was green stem. Two week later and the green stem is brown and any remaining brown bark is loose and looks like it is going to fall off. However, there is still a healthy branch or two with green growth. Any advice on how to proceed in care? We are expecting another few nights of near freezing or temps in the high 20's this week.

2) (Pic 2) I have 3 Cordyline 'Red Star'. None of them have developed trunks yet. But as you can see from the picture, the leaves did receive damage during a recent freeze. Since there is no trunk, I can't really cut it back to remove the damaged parts. I know I shouldn't remove any damage until late winter/early spring, and I don't plan to do so, but I am looking for advice on what to do once the time comes. Despite the fact there is no trunk, would I still try and cut it back at ground level? Or would I just remove the most damaged leaves? Or should I do nothing to it at all and just let it shed damaged leaves on its own?


Thumbnail by SavvyDaze Thumbnail by SavvyDaze
Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

For the Plumbago, leaving freeze-damaged foliage can help provide the plant with protection if temperatures plunge again.

Once all threat of frost or freezing weather has passed, cut off the dead branches or cut the plant back to ground level.

Inspect the plumbago for freeze-damaged tissue. Most freeze-damaged looks burned (brown and dry), blackened, waterlogged or limp. Some branches may split. If the entire shrub is damaged, cut it off at its base. It may be dead, or it may recover and produce shoots later in the spring.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

If you have another freeze coming, you probably need more protection for the plumbago. It is tropical so cant handle much cold. Try to give double the protection you gave last freeze. Perhaps mulch piled up high over the parts that are still green and then some kind of frost cover on top. Im sorry I dont know enough about the cordyline to advise you.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Plumbago is ubiquitous around here, I don't think freezing temps are a problem. There's more than one kind though. Do you know which you have?

I think 8b is a stretch for Cordyline in the ground, if it can't handle periodic cold nights, and/or you don't want a plant that just grows back from the roots in spring (if it can do that where you are, IDK.) Setting yourself up for frustration, zone denial? Christmas lights might help. Some bricks or pavers, any kind of dark rock near the base of the plant, to keep the ground warmer.

There seems to be some confusion in the south about hardiness with some plants, where gardeners from the north are used to plants dying to the ground in winter and consider that survival even on a plant that would be evergreen all winter in a warmer climate. I've read comments like, "it doesn't do well here because it dies in winter." Like I was told Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus) can't survive here. But it has for years, growing back from the roots in the spring. No, it's not evergreen but it survives. Just like Lantana, Brugmansia, Buddleia, Bougainvillea, Tradescantias, sweet potatoes, Caladiums, Cannas, so many plants.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I have the kind of plumbago that 4 days in the teens, kills. It is listed zone 10 and 11. Most of the time we have a mild winter but periodically we get the ax.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Both plants can be classed as tender depending on zone, situation, shelter given and temp.

As you appear to be having a really cold / freezing temps where you are, then best thing to do0 is give BOTH plants a shelter from the element's to help get them through the colder times of winter OR bring the plants inside in large pots.

The loss of leaves on tender plants is NOT the death of the plants by any means BUT it does give you a hint the plant is NOT coping well with the conditions and if these conditions continue, then you need to offer the plants help.

The best way I know is to make a shelter / tent by using garden canes cut to a suitable height, stick into the soil wigwam fashion, use CLEAR plastic to form the tent / shelter, leave the TOP of the tent open just a tiny bit to allow free air flow, this is to prevent damp condensation to sit on the vegetation, when the air warms up or sun comes out, try drop the plastic onto the ground or remove and replace this cover at night if still required, a mulch around the root area helps too BUT don't pile this up the stems, it may cause mould to get hold.

The Cordyline can also be protected TEMP by pulling up the stems and tying a soft string or even use old ladies stockings or panty hose as this is elasticated and soft, soon as the threat of frost has gone, just untie the leaves, this tying of the foliage also helps prevent damage IF heavy frost or snow lays in the heart of the foliage and either breaks the stems or rots the heart.
As mentioned earlier above, most Cordyline's re-sprout from the root, again IF you use a mulch, don't allow it to be piled against the trunk area.
Hope this helps you save your plants, good luck. Best Regards. WeeNel.

Lady's Island, SC(Zone 8b)

Purple, I have 2 Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata). The one most damaged by the early January freeze, had one perfectly good branch left. The other one survives pretty good with only minor damage. I threw a pop-up greenhouse over the latter last night due to the "hard freeze" forecast, but did nothing for the more damaged one. I have decided that today I am going to dig them up, pot them, and bring them into the garage under the fluorescent lights for the remainder of winter. During winter, temps are usually 20 to 30 degrees warmer in the garage as opposed to outside.

As for the Cordyline, no zone denial here LOL I planted the one pictured a few years back and it continued growing just fine even through winter. Of course, we have had normal/mild winters until this year with the relentless polar vortex. Of course, having such a harsh winter was unpredictable, I had planted 2 more Cordyline 'Red Star' this summer. The smallest one, I dug up a few days ago and cut the damage foliage back & brought it inside & have it in a south/east window where it is now growing new leaves :-) The other 2 are pretty big, but I think I am going to do the same for them this afternoon. If the roots are still good, then maybe they will be growing nicely come spring when I can plant them out again.

Steadycam, here in coastal SC we have mild winters as well. I have lived here since June of 2006 and can remember very few freezes and snow only once or twice. Of course, that happened before I got into gardening LOL I think a lot of "zone pushers" were caught off guard with this winters freezing temperatures. After the freeze in early January, I was quite bummed by the freeze damage on my plants which were beautiful and thriving just the day before. But I am not quite as bummed now because I decided that if I lose any this winter, then I just have a good excuse to go plant shopping in spring :) However, I will be more cautious and try to only plants things in the ground that are hardy to my zone, & those that are not hardy, I will put them in planters in case I have to bring them inside during a freeze. Or maybe I will try planting tropicals in pots and planting them in the ground so I can pull them up if a freeze is expected.

Thanks for all the advice, everyone!

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