September 27, 2023

How to help your plants after freeze damage?

If you live in Atlanta, you don’t need to think back very far to remember the coldest day of 2022. On Christmas Eve, the Atlanta airport thermometer registered 8 degrees. 

The “polar vortex” Christmas weekend brought Georgia the coldest temperatures we’ve encountered in decades! By definition at the National Weather Service, “the polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles. It ALWAYS exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter. The term “vortex” refers to the counter-clockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air near the Poles. Many times during winter in the northern hemisphere, the polar vortex will expand, sending cold air southward with the jet stream. This occurs fairly regularly during wintertime and is often associated with large outbreaks of Arctic air in the United States”. This very unusual weather of three days of single digit temperatures, plus damaging wind chill, was devastating to annuals, ornamentals, winter vegetables and some landscape shrubs and trees. 

Our seasonal color installations suffered tremendously. Plants end up looking like they were melting. All ornamental kale, cabbages, mustards completely disappeared. Snapdragons lost all leaves and we are hoping they come back. All the pansies and violas had some type of damage. 

Luckily, all our clients have understood the situation and that’s has being a relief for us. Even though the damage on the annuals have been extensive, the good news is that after 2 weeks we are seeing recovery on pansies and violas. Unfortunately, ornamentals and snapdragons wont come back. Just a few snaps trading will recover. For the recovery of the plants, it helps a lot that the weather has being warmer and we have had plenty of warm rain in the last couple of days. 

Some more plants damaged in the landscape that will come back:


My assessment for our gardens is as follow: 

  • 100% of Seasonal plants were damaged in some way (leaves, flowers, stems, roots) 
  • Flower beds facing north are the ones with more damage, since they stay shaded and cooler the longest. Plants are just starting to recover after 3 weeks. Some won’t come back. 
  • Pansies are showing better recovery than violas. 
  • South facing flower beds had a lot of green tissue damaged but are recovering nicely. 
  • Ornamentals, veggies, snaps (most of them), won’t come back.
  • Annuals in planters and window boxes, even if facing south had the worst damage, we are still waiting to see some green growth. 
  • Seedlings from veggies, they simply disappeared. Even though they were covered with planket (forst protection). The plants were so little and the cold was extreme. We are going to sow new seeds crops: beets, carrots, chard, kohlrabi, leaf lettuce, mustard, onion sets, parsnips, peas, potatoes, radish, spinach and turnip, after the last frost has passed in April.
  • We will be replacing annuals at window boxes and planters in the following weeks. Restaurants that have customers coming in and out need to look fabulous, so we can’t wait for the plants to recover. We will only use pansies and violas. 
  • Wholesale Nurseries have plenty of seasonal plant material for replacing. 


We talked with our grower and he suggested the following: 

  • Definitely remove all damaged parts, being careful to not remove new growth. 
  • Do not water since it has being raining lately and more water will do more bad than good. 
  • Give the plants some dry Milorganite fertilizer. He said that being so wet, it might be best to fertilize them now rather than wait.  
  •  If soil is dry, we can use a liquid fertilizer that has Nitrogen high to stimulate green growth (leaves).We will be using Kelp fertilizer.  

Regarding landscape plants such as loropetalums, fatsias, azaleas and other “hardy plants” we recommend to give them a trim in Spring when the last chance of freeze has past, most likely April 15. Herbs as rosemary, thyme and oregano can be pruned back now. They will produce new leaves in no time.

For the following seasons we will keep in mind to make sure our clients know that we may get this crazy weather again and its no ones fault. And plants more likely will recover from this. 


Here are some of the products that we use.

Organic Kelp Fertilizer by GS Plant Foods:

Photo from: GS Plant foods – Amazon

Milorganite 0605 Garden Care Organic Fertilizer:

Photo from: Milorganite – Amazon

I would love to hear from you! Any additional tips? Do you want to share your freezed plant pictures? questions?

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