February 2017 Q&A with TIS: Freezing Temps, Trees and Turf


Palm Tree Damage - TIS Houston

Palm tree showing signs of damage after recent freezes.

Tis’ the season for freezing temps and we hope you are all staying warm and dry out there.  This week we received questions from area homeowners regarding freezing temps affecting palms and fruit trees along with a question about dormant turf.  The pictures sent in from these properties have been posted below along with our recommendations.  Nothing beats an actual site visit and homeowners should always have a personal consultation with their expert before making any decisions regarding the landscape.


Palm Damage After a Freeze.  The only way to truly now if a palm is dead is to inspect the crown.  This can certainly be a challenge as most palms are out of reach for the average homeowner.  In this situation, I would recommend contacting a reputable tree company to inspect the tree for you.  If you have a smaller palm, and you have access to the crown, pull on the fronds in the middle.  If they come out really easily, there is a good chance the plant is dead.  If they do not, there is still a chance the plant can make it.  Be careful about trimming of the fronds to early.  If you trim these off and another cold spell hits our area, this could do more damage to the tree.  For more information about palms or frost damage, we suggest that you contact your arborist, nursery or feel free to reach out to us at info@tishouston.com


Citrus Tree Damage After a Freeze.  With the recent hard freeze, many citrus trees in our market area took a big hit and are looking rough. The last thing a homeowner would want to do is run out and prune the damage.  It is still really early in the year and a few more freezes are likely. Pruning a tree stimulates new growth that is even more susceptible to freeze damage and worse.

Fruit Trees - TIS Houston

Fruit tree showing signs of stress after low temps sweep through the area.

The first thing to do is assess the damage to the tree, it’s branches, leaves, and fruit.  If most of the leaves have dropped, the tree will likely recover as live wood will shed damaged leaves. If the damaged leaves stay on the tree for a prolonged period, there could well be dead branches that will need to be cut back to green wood.  You may also find splits on the branches or trunk.  While this damage is unsightly, it does not necessarily mean the tree will die.  Damage to the fruit is often dictated by the size of the fruit or the thickness of the rind.  If the rind is still firm, check a few pieces to see if there is any damage to the interior.  If the interior looks good you can wait to harvest when the fruit ripens naturally.  If the rind is soft, the fruit is likely no good.  Bad fruit should be removed from the tree.  Lightly trim the trees in late February or early March until you see green in the branches. Once we get to late March or early April you can do any major pruning and shaping of the tree.

Citrus trees that have gone through the stress of freeze damage will need to be fed and watered. We recommend using a slow release organic fertilizer to feed the tree.  In the meantime, use a frost cloth to cover the tree for any additional freezes that may hit us over the next few months.  We recommend tenting the tree rather than wrapping the frost cloth around the tree.  For more information about fruit trees or frost damage, we suggest that you contact your arborist, nursery or feel free to reach out to us at info@tishouston.com


Lawn Maintenance - TIS Houston

Winter weeds, like chickweed, can appear to be turf from afar.

Dormant Turf.  Most properties in our area use warm season turf with St. Augustine being the most common variety.  This turf will go dormant when we reach an overnight temperature of fifty-five to sixty degrees consistently.  The turf in this picture is not what it appears to be.  The green in the picture is actually a cool season weed (chickweed) and the turf is the straw-colored stuff.  This weed can be treated but will die off on its own when the temps warm up.  The small amount of turf in this picture is clearly dormant, which is fine, but there are also signs of a pest (possibly chinch bugs if this turf received very little water over the summer, or sod web worms, which affect the turf in the late summer to early fall) and/or fungal issue.  For more information about turf maintenance or frost dormancy, we suggest that you contact your horticulturist or feel free to reach out to us at info@tishouston.com

That will do it for this week’s Q&A with TIS.  Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have, to suggest a topic or send in your own landscape, drainage or irrigation issue.  Stay warm.


Danny Patrick has been in the green industry for more than a decade and is an expert in soil biology and creating healthy, sustainable landscape environments through conscientious organic practices. Danny is the landscape division manager for TIS Services and he lives in Tomball, Texas with his wife and children.

Danny has blogged 1 posts here.

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