In our humid subtropical climate, a quick frost is not big deal. When the temperatures go below 25 degrees Fahrenheit, that is when the problems begin in our yards. The good news is that last weekend’s freeze was not for an extended time so the roots of plants and shrubs were not seriously affected.
What to do with those sad looking plants and shrubs? Each variety is a little different.
Split Leaf philodendron—These are the most pathetic looking plants right now. They will come back. You can cut the dead leaves off at any time. They make great compost. It will not start to grown new leaves until warmer weather. Now is also a good time to cut the trunks if they have gotten too large. They will then sprout from the bottom growth.
Ferns—Leave them until warmer weather and then cut the dead stuff back. Boston ferns will come back and so will Southern Shield, Foxtail, and autumn fern. Kimberly ferns might not make it, but wait and see. Patience.
Gingers- Most gingers are deciduous and lose their leaves. Remove the dead plant material at any time. Shell gingers (those large green and yellow striped gingers) are ever green and they took a hit in the cold. Wait until warmer weather to cut them back to the ground. They will take awhile to recover, but they will.
Hardy annuals – These plants usually bloom all winter long (geraniums, dianthus, some salvias, ageratum, pentas, angelonia). They can not take a hard freeze like we had so say good-bye to them.
Perennials- They will be just fine. I am leaving up the dead plant material for winter interest. I will cut things back after the middle of February.
Dianella or flax lily – You can cut these down to the ground when the weather warms up. Wait until the middle of February. They will take awhile to recover, but the new leaves will be even better looking.
Shrubs- Most shrubs should recover. Bottlebrushes are native to Australia so do not like the cold. They will lose their leaves over the next month, but eventually make a comeback. Duranta also look horrible right now with brown leaves instead of their usual bright yellow. Do not prune shrubs now- even if they look dead. This is the worst thing that you can do. Let them recover at their own pace. I would not prune them, until April. If you covered citrus, they should survive. In the spring, trim off any dead branches.
It is sad to see so much dead plant material, but a garden is a work in progress. Things will die and you should see this as an opportunity to try something different. I am rethinking the front of my house right now.