Although temperatures have been quite mild this winter, freezing conditions could occur before the arrival of spring. Typically, the freezes we experience in our area cause little to no injury to our landscape plantings, however there are occasions when they can be severe enough to cause important damage.
Should damage to landscape plantings be apparent following a freeze, wait a while before attempting any pruning to allow time for all the damage to become fully evident. The severity of damage and the type of plant will dictate the method and amount of pruning. For pruning of herbaceous and tropical plants such as begonias, impatiens, philodendron, gingers, elephant ears, and cannas, and especially those plants that become mushy, slimy or foul smelling, these can be cut back to living tissue. Damaged foliage on banana trees can be removed and the trunk cut back if the trunk has been killed. A dead trunk will loose in the soil, look brown, feel mushy and bleed if punctured. If the trunk is alive then only the dead foliage should be removed. Allowing the trunk of a banana tree to remain that is alive will increase the chance for fruit production the following year.
Most often it is better to delay hard pruning of woody ornamentals and fruit trees until the spring when new growth appears. Waiting until spring will provide a more accurate indication of what parts survived the winter and what is dead. A method for determining dead tissue for woody plants is to scratch the bark with your thumbnail. If the tissue underneath is green then the branch or that part of it, is still alive. A tan or brown color underneath the bark would mean the tissue is dead. Proper pruning would involve starting at the top and working your way down removing all dead tissue but stopping at the green tissue of the branch.
If a freeze should occur, wait a while before attempting any pruning as time may show no injury or damage to landscape plantings.