Are All My Plants Dead? Tips on Caring for Your Yard After the Freeze

Not only did our homes and our spirits take a hit from the Texas Snowmaggedon of ‘21, but our plants, yards and gardens suffered as well. Now that it has been a couple of weeks, it is time to start assessing the damage. But don’t fret, moms! Here are a few tips to help you navigate caring for your yard after the freeze. Here’s what you should save, what you should cut back, and what you should throw out. Spring cleaning, anyone?

Are All My Plants Dead? Tips on Caring for Your Yard After the Freeze
I think my broccoli is somewhere under there?

1. If it is mushy, soggy or smells like rot, cut it back or throw it out!

Are All My Plants Dead? Tips on Caring for Your Yard After the Freeze
Yup, that was my broccoli. Eww.

You may have started to wonder what the heck that smell is coming from your backyard. If you haven’t done so, the first thing you need to do in caring for your yard after the freeze is to get rid of anything rotting. Plants that are rotting are most definitely dead or dying, and can harbor pests and disease that can spread to other healthy plants. So start hacking away that mush, or yank it out and put it in the trash or compost. Also remove any broken branches or anything falling off your plant. Doing all of this allows more oxygen flow to encourage growth and prevents illness to your plant.

2. If it is brown, cut it back until you see green, even if it is all the way to the roots. 

My poor brown lily turf.                                     
Green! Woohoo!

This tip applies mostly to shrubs, bushes, and flowers. Many plants will look like they are dead because they are all brown, but when you cut some of the branches, leaves or flower heads away, you can see green in underlying stems. This means your plant is alive and should come back within the next few months. You may have to hack away A LOT, even to the roots, but look for green, healthy tissue and you have a survivor. Hooray! Just be aware that anything newly cut back is very tender, and if for some crazy reason at this point we have another cold spell, these plants will need to be protected.

3. If you aren’t sure if it is alive, wait. Plants will eventually show you they are growing. Or take pictures and ask an expert.

Caring for your yard after the freeze
My Japanese Blueberry. Gonna leave her alone for a while.

It is has been two weeks since the storm, and many plants are going to be showing their wear and tear already. But some master gardeners say to wait a bit longer to fully assess the damage. You are just going to have to take it plant by plant. Take trees, for instance. I can already tell my crepe myrtles are fine, but my Japanese blueberry is iffy. If I see leaves start to fall and new foliage emerge, then I know it will make it; this may take another month or two. You can try a scratch test at different parts of your tree. Green = good; brown = bad. Or if you see large splitting on the branches, it’s done for. This will most likely be your new citrus, tropical trees like palms, and cacti. It just depends. If you aren’t sure if you should wait, cut it back or rip it out, take some pictures and show them to your local nursery staff {NOT big box stores; they will have no idea}. You can likely get some real local expert advice.

4. Check your sprinkler system, gradually reintroduce irrigation, and give your lawn some TLC.

Help! My Plants are All Dead!
Your grass may look like this now…
But in a few months it will look like this!

If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, it is important to check it thoroughly to look for any busted pipes, stuck sprinkler heads, or anything else that could become a big problem. Run it several times for short intervals, being sure to keep any eye on how everything is working. Or if this makes you nervous, have a professional lawn service take care of it for you. As well, you need to slowly reintroduce water to your stressed out plants and lawn. They can’t handle, nor do they need, a lot of water right now. St. Augustine grass is going to be the most stressed, followed by Bermuda and Zoysia. Apply an organic nitrogen fertilizer in April and May, and try to minimize foot traffic in the meantime. Apply a pre-emergent herbicide now to prevent weeds from flourishing over the next several months. DON’T use a weed and feed product! These will be too stressful for your already stressed out lawn. 

5. Be patient, grasshopper.

Caring for your yard after the freeze
My daffodils are FINALLY starting to flower!

I know it stinks to be staring at a yard or garden that is all brown, but remember to have some patience, as all gardeners have to. If you take the appropriate steps now, then in the next few months you will be seeing a lot of green spring up. And although it is most likely we won’t have another freeze at this point, depending on where you live in the greater Houston area, it could happen {especially in 2021… UGH}. So I would wait a few weeks before planting anything new, especially any flowers or tropical plants that will be susceptible to the cold. But when the time comes, get after it! Your lawns, landscape and gardens will come back from this. After all, they’re #Houstonstrong.

Comment below if you have any particular questions about your caring for your yard after the freeze- your lawn, landscape, garden or plants! I’ll be happy to help you out or point you in the right direction!

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Dani Boss
Dani has spent the vast majority of her life in the greater Houston area, and there’s no place else she’d rather be! She loves all things Houston, from the culture, to the sports, to the FOOD {ohhhh, Tex-Mex}. After many years attending Texas A&M University {twice!} and the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston, she worked in the healthcare field for over a decade as a critical care nurse and then a family nurse practitioner. In 2021, she left her medical career in order to care for her youngest daughter at home who has epilepsy. Dani is wife to her best friend Stu, and mom to two little spitfires, Emilia {2017} and Caroline {2019}. When she is not caring for her family, Dani is an avid gardener and now has her own business, Summer Skye Gardens, which provides garden coaching, consultations, design and more. You can follow her gardening journey and love of all things nature-related via her Instagram @summerskyegardens and her website


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