Worried about possible freeze damaged trees on your property or yard? If there are areas with brown leaves or dead wood and branches it could be from the onset of dieback after the trees were weakened by the hard freeze. We highly encourage you to call your local Arborist for a professional consultation. An ISA Certified Arborist can conduct a thorough assessment of the trees on your property and provide a report detailing their health, drainage needs, soil condition, fertilization needs, and provide a watering schedule. Most freeze damaged tree assessments also include recommendations for fertilizer treatment or removal if needed.
Types of Freeze Damage
Many mature tree species are fairly freeze tolerant, so the damage usually occurs on outer and lower limbs. However, it is possible for dieback to occur along the roots and/or trunk. Freeze damage may include limb loss, missing bark, discolored voids, slow growth, early browning of leaves, defoliation, and overall health decline in the years following the initial frost.
Continue reading to learn some of the warning signs of lingering tree damage after a freeze in the Houston, Texas area.
Signs of Freeze Damage
Knowing the subtle signs of tree damage is important because after a tree experiences a stressor such as a hard freeze it is already weakened and more susceptible to pest infestations, disease, and decline.
Symptoms of tree damage from a hard freeze include but are not limited to:
- Limb Loss
- Stunted Growth
- Early fall coloring and thin foliage
- Fungus Cankers
- Thin canopy
- Dead branches with no leaves in the upper tree canopy
- Root decay
- Winter burn, aka frost bite
Preventing Tree Decline Before a Freeze
The best way to prevent damage to trees during a winter storm is to protect them with thorough watering, insulation, scheduled deep root feeding with proper fertilize, and planning tree placement accurately.
- Insulating. Trees can be wrapped with blankets or other insulating material before temperatures drop below. For mature trees, be sure to wrap the main leader, aka trunk, to keep it as warm as possible. Smaller trees like crepe myrtles, pecan trees, or younger oak trees should be wrapped completely all the way to the soil to help protect them from the bitter cold.
- Watering. Trees should be watered thoroughly a day before a possible hard freeze to help insulate tree roots so they can maintain an ambient temperature a few degrees higher than the above ground temperature. Hydrated trees are less prone to dieback, limb loss, and winter burns. A tree that hasn’t been watered enough over a few months or years may need a few good soaks a few days before a freeze to rehydrate it fully. However, trees that are overwatered may suffer from a condition called root rot, so it’s important for you to follow the tree watering schedule given to you when the trees were planted.
- Fertilizing. Talk to your Arborist to schedule a tree fertilizing program specific to your tree’s needs. Annual or semi-annual fertilization service before a freeze boosts a tree’s health and longevity, lowering the chances of any adverse effects following a winter storm. A combination of deep root feeding or spraying fertilizer is very common, but the experts can map out a fertilizer schedule that works best for your trees.
- Tree Placement. Proper tree planning and placement is crucial to tree resiliency when they experience stresses like below freezing temperatures or wind damage during storms. Trees that are already weakened by malnourishment, insufficient hydration, disease, or overcrowding are less likely to thrive after experiencing a significant stressor. Plant trees with their mature size, nutrition, sunlight, and drainage needs in mind.
Treating a Freeze Damaged Tree
A tree that has endured the stress of a prolonged hard freeze (like Southeast Texas experienced in 2021) should be watched and maintained carefully so that early intervention can reduce health decline. Pruning dead or hanging branches is an absolute must, but don’t do it too soon and don’t over prune. Corrective pruning should only be performed by an experienced professional, don’t do it yourself.
If you suspect you lost a tree to a freeze it’s best to wait a few months and sometimes even an entire year (until the following spring) to see if it is indeed dead. If a tree care expert confirms your suspicions, they will likely recommend removing it and grinding the remaining stump down. Dead tree removal reduces the risk of falling and airborne branches in the event of high winds, tropical storms, or hurricanes.
Call (281) 391-3450 or fill out a form online to request a consultation from Cody’s Tree Service, Inc. across the West Houston and Katy area. We look forward to improving the health of your trees and making them more resilient to treat and prevent freeze damage.