Don’t Cut Back “Dead” Plants Yet

January 9, 2014 | By | Comments (0)

Photo: Frosty

It was colder than Bernie Madoff’s heart this week. My poor avocado tree turned from green to black and brown. But I’m not going to cut it back just yet. Here’s why you, too, should pocket your pruners for another month or two.

Reason #1 — Winter ain’t over yet. In fact, we’re just getting into it. Despite the fact that this weekend should be milder, Mother Russia’s “Polar Vortex” could send us even more Commie cold. So pruning potentially damaged foliage now is like mopping the floor before the flood is over. Why waste your time?


Vlad Putin sent the icy weather from here. Photo: verygreen

Reason #2 — If you have a lot of snow right now, the damage to plants may be less than you think. Snow is a fantastic insulator. That’s why lost trekkers up north build themselves snow caves to hole up in for the night. It’s warmer under there.

Reason #3 — Some plants, notably perennial salvias, are more prone to cold damage if cut back after going dormant. The theory is that pruning allows cold air to penetrate the hollow stems and make it down to the crown of the plant. Don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds logical and I’m 1/8 Vulcan. Leaving on dead foliage also helps to insulate live foliage and shield it from wind.

Reason #4 — Spring will tell you exactly how far back to cut. Buds will sprout from the lowest point on the stem that is still alive. Cut back to there at that time.


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