So far the Tennessee Valley has experienced a mild Winter Season, this includes the months of December January, and February.

One snap of arctic cold air at the end of December dropped temperatures into the singles digits for a short period of time, but it was just enough to cause damage to plants across the area.

Do your plants look brown and dead like in the photos above? I am here to tell you that you are not alone, while the dangerous cold air we saw was for a brief period of time, it was just enough to damage vulnerable plants.

With the mild air in place before that brief the cold air some broad-leaf plants still had their leaves in place. This left those leaves vulnerable to the cold air leaving them burned and damaged. This being said, just because it is brown, it does not necessarily mean that your plant is dead.

“Looks can be deceiving, if it has brown leaves, it just means that the leaves are dead and then we can use a simple scratch test to test the bark.”

Jeff Bennett, Bennett Nursery

What is a scratch test?

A scratch test is an easy way you can tell if your plant is still alive under the brown or is in fact fully dead. All you need to do is gently scratch the bark with a knife or a fingernail until the portion of the stem shows.

If the stem appears green like in the photo above, it means the plant itself is alive. If you perform the test and find that the stem is brown then it means your plant has died. If your plant is still alive but appears brown, don’t do anything with it just yet!

“If it is living, you don’t have to prune to prune it, you may chose to prune it to shorten the plant to make it fuller but at least we know where we stanfd because green may turn to brown but brown will never turn to green.”

Jeff Bennett, Bennett Nursery

Jeff recommends waiting until at least mid-March if not later to start pruning your plants. For more tips, you can follow their Facebook page here.