Assessing Winter Damage in the Landscape

Home Grown  by Keith Reed
As mentioned last week, this winter was colder than we’ve seen for several years and may very well leave us with more landscape damage than we are accustomed to seeing. It is very difficult to know for sure what kind of damage we have until green-up. While we are waiting, here a few plants you might want to keep your eye on.

Turfgrass. We have received several inquiries about the condition of Tall fescue lawns. For the most part, you can expect a good recovery as the crown of the plant is very winter hardy. I would suggest a good nitrogen fertilization soon if you have not already done so (assuming irrigation is available).

Bermudagrass may not fare quite as well. There is a better than average chance of seeing winter kill on this turf if one or more of the following conditions apply. Closely mown turf, very high fertility last fall, north facing slopes, highly trafficked areas, and new installations are all susceptible to winter damage.

Bermudagrass is a remarkable plant. Even with significant winter injury, bermudagrass will almost always fully recover, although it may require some adjustments to your normal maintenance plan. Contact the Extension office if you need more details on this.

Hardy shrubs like roses and crape myrtles may have more die back than usual. As they begin to green up, look for signs of life near the ends of the stems. If you don’t see buds swelling or leaves unfurling, you may need to cut them back to a point of viable growth. There is no need to wait much past leaves opening for hope that they might green up. Some delay is possible, just not a lot.

I realize we’ve talked about tree damage a lot in this column over the last couple of years. This week’s windstorm might have been a good indicator to help us assess the condition of trees. If you have a large quantity of downed branches, this could be an indicator that your trees are in trouble.

Lastly, while it is not related to winter damage, the wind exposed another landscape issue that hit very close to home for allergy suffers. The eastern red cedar trees are exploding with pollen right now. This is another reason we need to work hard to try to keep this pesky plant under control in our part of the world.
For more information of this or any other horticultural topic, you can contact Keith Reed, the Horticulturist in the Payne County Extension office. Keith can be reached via email at
keith.reed@okstate.edu, phone at 405-747-8320, or in person at the Payne County Extension office, located at 315 W. 6th in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State University, in compliance with Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Executive Order 11246 as amended, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and other federal laws and regulations, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age, religion, disability, or status as a veteran in any of its policies
Article Archives