Here in the Southwest, we were hit with a deep freeze this past winter.  Temps in my garden fell to 20 degrees F.  Now we aren’t strangers to occasional freezes each winter.  But what made this one different was that we had 4 successive days of extreme cold.
As I drive down the streets in my neighborhood, I see trees that look much like the Lysiloma tree above.  Do you have trees that suffered frost damage too?  Ficus trees seem to have been most heavily affected by frost damage.  But I also see some Jacaranda trees that look much the same.
Why are the upper branches more affected then the lower?
Well, the upper branches were the most exposed to the cold and they protected the lower branches from the cold.
With the arrival of warm weather, some of the ugly, brown branches are beginning to be covered with green again.  The leaves start appearing towards the bottom of the tree canopy and work their way upward.
As a result, you see lush, green growth below and brown up above.  So the question that many people have is when do you prune back the brown branches?
 I recommend waiting at least 3- 4 more weeks (mid-May) to see if any leaves begin to appear.  If they do not, then it is usually a sign that the upper branches are dead and can be pruned back.  You can also bend the smaller branches to see if they break off easily – this is a sign that the branch is dead.  If the branch is still flexible, then there is still live wood inside.
Because your tree has lost much its leaves to frost, it often produces a huge flush of new growth like the Lysiloma tree, above.

Now you may be tempted to remove some of the excess growth because it looks ‘messy’.  But, please DON’T.

Leaves are what make ‘food’ for your tree and it needs all the leaves it can get right now until it has produced enough new growth to compensate for the leaves lost.  I would recommend waiting as long as possible before removing any excess leaves.

Rest assured, before you know it, your tree will soon recover and look beautiful once again.

I would like to thank Becky who sent me these photos of her tree and suggested the topic for this post 🙂


********************

So, I am spending the day starting to pack for my upcoming road trip.  It is so much easier when all you have to do is pack yourself and not 3 kids as well.

I am traveling with my mother.  It is very strange to be traveling without my husband and kids, but I know we will have a fabulous time.


So, where are we going?


I’ll tell you next time….

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

5 replies
  1. trav4adventures
    trav4adventures says:

    Yes, we had heavy frosts here in the Coachella Valley, too! In fact, the growers were burning bales of straw on the borders of their lands, hoping to keep their crops from freezing. My snail vines got blasted, but they are now coming back. My jacaranda looks pretty sparce, but I do see others that are in full bloom!

    Reply
  2. Rohrerbot
    Rohrerbot says:

    Great post. Ficus became toast for many people as well as the Jacaranda….and can you believe a couple of the Mesquites(Chilean) bit the dust here? Jacaranda should show signs of life by now and on the tree it will be clearly marked what's dead and not. It was like a line was drawn that said….don't grow past this point. Of our 3 trees, only one made it and it was older. The other two were less than a year old.

    Reply
  3. Marguerite
    Marguerite says:

    Noelle, are there any other reasons why this might happen to a tree? I'm wondering because I have a mature maple in my yard that looks similar, lots of growth on the bottom and nothing on top. But we're zone 5b here and the maple should be able to withstand our cold temperatures.

    Reply
  4. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Hello Marguerite,

    It sounds like your tree might have a fungal disease that may be affecting the roots. I would get a Certified Arborist to come out to look at your tree so that they can diagnose your problem and let you know if there is a cure.

    I hope your tree will be okay 🙂

    Noelle

    Reply
  5. Dude
    Dude says:

    This blog was exactly what I was looking for! My Lysiloma looks just like the pictures above. I'll be prunnig dead branches this weekend. Thank you!

    Rick

    Reply

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