That Polar Plunge Killed my Tea Olive! What should I do?

Author: Hayes Jackson, Longleaf Botanical Gardens Liaison

Those of you who wanted a cold Christmas certainly got your wish. Alabama and the entire southeast were invaded by a sweeping mass of Arctic air that many weather experts have deemed the “polar plunge”.”” The cold front was a triple whammy for many of our landscape plants, especially evergreens like Tea Olive, Rosemary, Oleander, and Indian Hawthorn. Even ironclad hardy plants like Aucuba, Pyracantha, Azaleas, and Liriope were burned. 

What caused this horrible plant massacre? The “flash freeze” was the biggest component, with a forty-degree temperature drop in nine hours. Frigid winds, subfreezing temperatures for fifty-eight hours, and bright sunshine on frozen foliage created the perfect storm of conditions to produce such devastation. However, don’t fret too much as most plants should survive. We will have a better idea of the damage done once the spring weather arrives.