Caring for shrubs

Check shrubs for freeze damage. Many such as gardenias, pyracanthas, nandinas, tea olives, ligustrums, azaleas, and camellias lose most of their leaves as a result of severe freezes. Others, such as the narrow-leaved evergreens, show very little or not damage. The full extent of damage will not be apparent until growth starts. Wait until then to prune out the dead branches. Do not let plants get too dry. Drying winds and cold soils dry out plants and do more damage than cold itself. Plants that lose their leaves don't need as much water as they would when in leaf.

Overwatering can be as harmful as underwatering. Prized camellias, azaleas, and other shrubs sometimes can be saved if damage due to bark splitting is caught early enough. Check stems of these plants on the south side, especially near the ground. If bark is cracked, cover splits with grafting wax or one of the asphalt-base wound dressings. This will prevent drying and peeling of the bark and will save the plant if bark is killed on only one side.

Now is a good time to start over with hedge plants such as ligustrum, abelia, spirea, and other plants that tend to get tall and leggy. Cut them back to the ground. Give nandinas the same treatment since they have lost their leaves. Chrysanthemum plants are amazingly cold hardy. After they have finished blooming, and the first freeze this fall have browned their leaves, cut back the dead stalks to ground level. Burn all dead tops to reduce disease mound mulch over the clumps.

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