By Jeff Ray

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The cold weather of last week was a zone change. This area is consider to be Growing Zone 8a. When temperatures got below zero last week, the coldest in over 70 years, our zone became Zone 6 (Kansas City).

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Save for the trees, last week delivered the coldest temperatures many of our plants have ever experienced. Many people select plants native to South Texas; they did not fare well in the historic cold. Plants that are native to zones 6 or lower will likely be fine.

The bottom line is that the temperatures got below zero last week. There is a tremendous loss of plant life out there across North Texas. For some types, it was catastrophic. For example, for palm trees, it will likely go down as a mass extinction.

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What should you do next? Earlier this week I spent the morning with Daniel Cunningham, a.k.a. The Texas Plant Guy. He was accessing the damage done to a landscape client of his through his company Rooted In. He was patiently going over plant by plant, pulling off small snips to examine the layer just below the bark layer. If that layer still had some green in it, he would smile. There is a good chance that plant will make it. If you want to go through your yard doing the same you can at least start to tally the butcher’s bill.

But the truth is, no one knows just yet what did or did not survive the great cold of ’21. Spring is just around the corner, and many of our plants are ready to start waking up. Your plants will let you know if or what parts have made it through the cold. Many will likely end up getting a severe cut-back; you might lose years of growth. JUST DON’T CUT BACK ANYTHING YET. No matter how bad it looks, wait into mid-March and we are past the threat of another freeze. That dead material on your plant is actually protecting it right now from any more cold.

Another thing I learned from Daniel the other day. If you plant is dropping leaves, that is actually a good sign. If the plant is still alive it would start the process of dropping its’ lost plant matter and start growing the replacements. When we get into spring you want to feed, water and love on your plants to help their recovery. It could take a few growing seasons to get back to a normal life for some of them.

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I expect we will be talking about this cold spell for some time, its’ true toll will take a while to revel itself. If you have to replace a plant lost to cold damage, it would be a good time to consider what you are planting in its place. I expect more severe cold spells in the future, I doubt we’ll go another 70 years before we see a negative low. Putting in a plant that can handle the extreme weather stress that north Texas delivers limits your choices. But it also lessens the heartache (and cost).