Five Tips For Saving Storm Damaged Plants
My wife and I worked hard this spring on our planting beds and containers. We spread eight yards of wood chips, planted new shrubs and flowering perennials. We put a dozen new rose bushes in a new bed along one side of the house. We made beautiful containers filled with flowering annuals. I even got two great hubs out of all the work, one on hydrangeas and one on mums. The yard had never looked better. Then, the wonderful spring thunderstorms came. In a span of twenty minutes, the yard and the beds were made to look like we hadn't touched them in years. Instead of enjoying the landscape, we were trying to save our storm damaged plants.
We had an evening full of rain and thunderstorms which was capped off by an early morning hail storm that poured an inch of marble sized hail all over the area. To top it off, it was extremely windy during the hail storm, which gave an extra ounce of potency to the already destructive balls of ice. The hail shredded leaves, crushed delicate flowers, broke stems, decimated larger leafed trees and left a giant mess in our planting beds. Cleanup would not be easy, and what of all the plants that were damaged by the hail?
Fortunately, our new roses were sheltered somewhat by the house and our established shrubs were hardy enough to take the beating from the hail. Our new hydrangeas, and established ones, did not fare so well. Nor did some of our crepe myrtles, young oaks and maples. Rather than wallow, we went to work with getting everything cleaned up. The plants that were damaged would require special attention.
Helping Your Plants
Powerful thunderstorms are not unique to North Texas, and the same kind of damage we incurred can be had after wind storms, late spring snow, a hurricane or a tornado. Your injured plants will need help coming back. Following these simple tips can get the ball rolling and give your landscape a better chance:
- Clean - Clear debris from beds and pots. In addition to making the beds look neat again, decaying leaves are not always good for the soil and could potentially spread disease.
- Prune - Prune away dead flowers from flowing plants. Prune broken branches and stems. Prune heavily damaged foliage. It may be necessary with some perennials to cut them back a bit and hope for the best. Many annuals will come back but some perennials, especially flowing shrubs, may have already gone through their bloom cycle and will not bloom again until their next cycle.
- Dry - Let your beds dry out for a few days before watering after heavy rains. A good layer of mulch keeps moisture in and after a good soaking rain, the mulch and soil beneath can stay wet for days, even in the hottest weather and full sun exposure. Check the soil before watering again to make sure it is needed. Too much water can drown plants and lead to root rot. Also, if the beds are too moist, they could become breeding grounds for fungus and mold. If necessary, spot water only the plants that need it and plants in containers.
- Fertilize - When available, use a combination fertilizer and insecticide. In the days following a soaking rain, bugs perk up and can become a problem. You'll want to feed the damaged plants and help prevent infestations of mites, ants, caterpillars and other little creatures that can further harm your already fragile landscape.
- Mulch - Check the mulch in your beds. Smooth out areas that have been shifted or made bare from the runoff. Add mulch to beds that lost their cover because of the rain. It is good to have at least a 2-inch layer of mulch on your soil. You may find that you have to add quite a bit in some spots because it was washed away. Also check your lawn near the beds for mulch. If you use a wood-chip type mulch, you will want to clean it up from your lawn.
Remember that plants will be healthy as long as you care for them properly. Watering and feeding are obviously critical. It is important to get to the process of cleanup and repair as quickly as possible. Give your plants time to recover. Unless it is obvious that they will not come back, such as a tree that has been uprooted, maintain them until the following spring to give them a chance. If you find that you do need to remove a plant, be sure to get all of it, or if it was well established, as much of the root system as possible, so you can replace it with a new one. With a little patience, and some elbow grease, I know our beds will be looking good again soon.