Late spring cold snap leads to summer garden woes

A late spring frost hit a large part of the country earlier this year. Although the weather is back on track, many readers are still feeling the fallout from that cold snap. QUESTION: ‘We have some rose bushes in our back yard and this year we had a number of them freeze out. What can we do to prevent this from happening next year’ ‘John Vargo ANSWER: Many people mulch them in to a depth of about four to six inches, at least during the cold weather and then pull back for the spring and summer. Also covering them with burlap during a very cold spell is a good idea. Your main objective is to keep the wind from sucking the moisture out and causing a burn. QUESTION: ‘I planted seven white crape myrtle (lagerstroemia fauriei ‘Fantasy’) trees. They aren’t doing so well. Some have new growth and some have nothing. The ones with nothing are still green when you scratch the bark. Does this have something to do with our cold spring’ I planted these trees the end of March and it got below freezing a couple times. Do you think they will come to and grow’ ‘Steve Bergstrom ANSWER: The crape myrtles were among the hardest hit with the freeze. In fact, in our area, it killed most of them down to the top of the soil. If you have split bark at the base the tree has ruptured. But don’t despair. There is a possibility, even with those, to regenerate from the roots. So, I would leave them in until the end of the growing season and re-evaluate them then. QUESTION: ‘Two years ago I planted 200 Giant Thujas. By late last year, I had lost about 50 of them, apparently from the heat and drought. This spring the rest of them were starting to brighten up as they do in the spring; then, in mid-April, we had a hard freeze (17F). Now all of them have turned mostly brown and I’m still not seeing anything that would indicate any life in them. Have I lost them’ ‘Mike Jacobs ANSWER: I have about the same number of Giant Thulas as you. Mine are anywhere from 4 foot to 14 foot (they are of different ages) and all have a brownish tinge to them. If you check at the base of the trunk and you see the bark peeling away or an obvious split, then they may be dead or dying. If they do not have any noticeable splits, then they have a good chance of greening out. Water is something they need right now, but avoid over-watering. Do not fertilize them until they begin to put out new foliage and start to get their green back again. QUESTION: ‘Last fall I planted a blazing red maple tree. It is about 4 inches around in diameter and about 15 ft tall. It took well. This spring it got those helicopter things on it and then the leaves started to sprout. “Our spring here started out very warm, then we had a very cold snap, which sort of froze some of the leaves on the bushes and trees. It then got very warm and now it is cold again. ‘The leaves on the tree have formed well, but they are very droopy looking. Some of the early leaves are dry and burnt from the cold weather. I have been watering it often and I just put down more mulch around the bottom of the tree. There are no black spots or anything on the underside of the leaves. They just look droopy. Can you tell me what I can do to wake it up’ Is it dying’ ‘Trish Linhart ANSWER: I believe the tree has droopy leaves because you are over-watering. You need to let it drop those leaves so it can begin to put on new ones. As with my other answers in today’s column, if the tree bark is not evidently ruptured at the base of the tree, then you should be fine. The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve’s free e-mailed newsletter, visit

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