Spring freeze events can often look worse than they are

Spring freeze events can often look worse than they are

In Colorado, it’s often said if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.

Despite March 20 being the official start to spring, April saw unseasonably cool temperatures and ever-accumulating snow just as trees and shrubs were all beginning to emerge from dormancy.

But then on May 21, after many trees and shrubs had already begun to leaf out, much of the state dropped to freezing temperatures, followed by a heavy, wet snow. In fact, it was the biggest late-May snowstorm Denver had seen in forty-four years.

Factor in a half-dozen hail storms here and there and the growing season was already testing the resilience of Colorado trees and shrubs.

What happens to trees and shrubs during a spring freeze?

A sudden, brief spring freeze is not likely to kill or cause long-term damage to trees and shrubs. What it will do however, is cause a minor set-back in the plant’s overall development during the growing season.

Leaf buds, even those that had already begun to unfurl, may very well shrivel up and turn brown due to the freezing temperatures and precipitation. But that’s just the initial budding.

The marvels of nature mean that your tree will produce another set of buds and leaves during the growing season. There will be some loss of nutrients due to the weather stress early on, so it’s vital that you replenish those nutrients with proper fertilization during the season.

Unfortunately, flowering buds don’t always fare well in the event of a spring freeze. While it probably won’t kill the plant, it will seriously reduce or even eliminate flowering for the season.

Other damage

As for hail, the leaf damage alone doesn’t typically affect the long-term health of the tree or shrub. However, producing new leaves uses stored energy, which puts added stress on the tree or shrub, leaving it more vulnerable to pests and diseases.

Additionally, depending on the size of the hail, small wounds can be left on twigs and branches, which can disrupt the water supply in the tree cell walls as well as open the tree up to diseases.

When plants are severely defoliated, a healthy tree will produce new leaves in two to three weeks. The tree will likely look “sparse” for the remainder of the year. Trees that are in poor condition may produce fewer leaves and take longer to do so. Proper fertilization can definitely help your hail-damaged tree or shrub recover more quickly.

No one in Colorado can fully predict when a spring freeze may hit. But it’s important to remember that healthy trees and shrubs are less prone to spring freeze damage, which is why proper plant health care practices are critical throughout the year.

For more on plant health care, contact SavATree today.