From Shreveport in the northwestern corner of Louisiana to New Orleans in the far southeast, it got cold in Louisiana this past week, and now that our seasonal winter warmth has returned a lot of you are looking for damage control in your yards and gardens. While it's no fun to drive up to a yard filled with dead and dying plants, it just might be in your best interest to not be such an overachiever as far as pruning back the dead leaves go.

Sago Palm with Frost Damage
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This past weekend most of Louisiana was below-freezing. Normally that's not that big of a deal for a short period of time but the fact that a large portion of the state stayed at or below the freezing mark for several hours can do some damage to plants. Especially those plants that are more suited to tropical and subtropical climates.

While many of us still have a few days off from work because of the New Year's holiday and the fact that we've "seen enough of our family" you might be tempted to go clean up the mush that mother nature left behind. However, that might be in your best interests to do it right now or anytime before the end of February.

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The reason is pretty simple, we still have some of our coldest weather yet to come. Historically mid-January is when South Louisiana, in particular, experiences some of its coldest temperatures. The late December cold snap was not only historic, but it was a bit early when compared to the lessons of history. Because we are likely to experience more cold weather and temperatures at or below freezing you'll want to let that dead and dying plant material sit on top of its roots. 

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This will act as an insulator to those tender roots and parts of the plant that were not damaged by the frost. In fact, if we get some unseasonably warm temperatures between now and spring, you might see some of those plants attempt to "spring back" to life.

Experts at LSU's AgCenter suggest you wait until the final threat of frost has left the area before you do any serious pruning or "mush removal".  On plants like Sago Palms, you'll want to prune them back in early spring anyway. That way you can remove any of the scarred or damaged leaves left behind by Old Man Winter.

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You can always reach out to your local LSA AgCenter extension specialist, you'll find one in every Parish and they are here to help not only those who make a living in agriculture but regular homeowners and gardeners like you and me.

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