Well, again, it has been a while since I’ve posted. I have a few interesting topics in mind to write about this summer but unfortunately this particular topic has come to the forefront due to a personal experience with baseball-sized hail recently. Living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area my entire life (*cough* 56 years) I have been through quite a few hailstorms in my time. It seems as though the chances of baseball-sized hail or larger in our part of the country has become greater over the past several years. Keeping this in mind along with the fact homes and vehicles are greatly damaged by these storms, I thought I’d share the good news that most plants are able to recover, and some even thrive, after such events.
I suppose the first step in determining if a plant will bounce back after a storm (or other disaster) is to simply give it plenty of time to heal and recover. Most people understand your landscape will be reasonably unattractive for a while after a severe event. I recall visiting Florida only a month after a category 4 hurricane had made landfall and, yes, there was major saltwater damage to all the beachfront resorts as expected. Instead of a lush welcome, we were met at our hotel by dull, brown tropicals and dismembered palms. However, I could see little pockets of healthy greenery peeking out of the dead-looking shrubs. The injured plants were already beginning to recover. Plants can be pretty resilient, just like people.
And just like us humans, sometimes a plant seems A-OK immediately after an incident but a few days later the evidence of damage appears. Have you ever been in a car accident and walked away feeling fine only to literally feel like you’d been hit by a truck the next day? Then, a few days later, the bruises appear and not only do you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck but you look like it as well. The same goes with plants. There is the obvious evidence of damage such as when a full limb or palm frond breaks off, and then there is the gradual yellowing and dropping of leaves that may occur with some plants over the next few days. Still, even when pain is delayed, an injury can heal.
In researching this topic and personally nursing some of my own prized plants back to health, I found that once a serious injury of any kind has occurred to a plant, the following actions are beneficial:
- Trim and discard dead, yellow and injured limbs, leaves and fruit.
- Watch closely for disease and/or insects over the upcoming weeks – both like to attack weakened plants.
- If disease or insects do appear, use horticultural oil (in the evening) as a remedy.
- Water more frequently – but do not over water (do not allow potted plants to sit in water.)
- Replenish the soil around the base of plants, especially if the plant was uprooted or suffered a low injury.
- Add mulch.
- If a tree, shrub or perennial is badly injured, resolve that it simply may not look great this year – trim it and look forward to next year.
- If an annual, give it a couple of weeks to show signs of recovery or new growth and if none, discard. Allow the soil to rest and look forward to planting suitable annuals/vegetables for the upcoming season (spring, summer, fall or winter).
A bonus to salvaging a plant is there are times one that is severely damaged actually grows back stronger. What comes to mind right away is the old adage that a sapling left to bend in the wind grows to withstand stronger gales than those staked. In preparing for this post I read an article that mentioned scientists have discovered that select plants, nibbled to the ground by varmints, are prompted to increase their chromosomes upon re-growth after being damaged. (See https://www.futurity.org/nibbled-plants-grow-back-stronger/.) And then there are those plants, such as the moonflower vine, that must go through a catastrophe, such as a fire or flood, in order for their seeds to open, disperse and/or germinate. Speaking of reproducing, I noticed my aloe vera and pineapple plants, both which took direct hits from the hail, are suddenly developing offshoots. The mother plants may be marred for now, but soon I will have two for one! I also have noticed my doted-upon plumeria that lost all but one stalk during the storm, is producing the most vibrant fuchsia-toned blooms I’ve ever seen on its one remaining stalk (top photo). Lastly, haven’t you heard that difficult circumstances can often make fruits and vegetables more delicious?
What doesn’t kill us usually makes us stronger . . . and apparently, so it goes with plants.
Until next time,