February is almost over, and temperatures are rising in South Florida gardens. While some of the northermost inner areas still have frost days ahead of them, the rest of us are itching to do something about cold damaged plants. In the warmer South Florida gardening areas, it’s possible to do a little trimming now, but for severely damaged plants, it’s still a waiting game.
Dead leaves can be trimmed from bananas in most coastal areas of South Florida. They can be added to compost piles, or simply piled up around the bottom of the banana plants to add potassium back into the soil.
Trimming palm fronds should wait until the leaf is completely dead, and hanging down from the plant. “Rooster Tailing” your plants (cutting off all fronds except those that stand straight up at the top) can cause your tree to develop a week trunk at the top that will more easily blow off during storms. I have an areca palm that honestly looks horrible, but I’m patiently (well, impatiently maybe) leaving the fronds to fall off naturally before removing them, which many of them are already doing.
As for shrubs and fruit trees, they will likely not start to sprout new growth until temperatures warm to over 70 degrees on a daily basis. I’ve seen some shrubs in my yard put out new green, only to have it burned back by a subsequent cold night, so it’s still a waiting game with those. I’m waiting out a starfruit, which looks like it may have to grow back from below the graft, and a peanut butter bush which may not make it at all. Luckily, I have seedlings of the peanut butter bush that were seemingly unaffected by the cold.
My jatropha tree is still dead as a doornail, and I’m just praying I’ll get one sprout from the base that I can train into a new tree. These grow rapidly, so as long as I get one sprout, I’ll be happy. As for the jatropha bush, I’m kinda hoping it’s totally dead, because I didn’t like it where it is, and they are a bear to dig up. Other ornamentals I just have to wait out are Fireworks Clerodendrum, Giant Pipevine, Dragon Tree, and a gorgeous Orange Jasmine that I’m pretty sure is gone.
On the upside, firebushes and papayas are already showing new growth from the base, bananas are shooting up new leaves, and crinums, cannas, and native spider flowers are starting to recover.
So it’s a waiting game for sure in most South Florida gardens, and as we South Florida gardeners tend to be impatient, not a pleasant one.