AUSTIN (KXAN) — Walking around the streets of Austin, there are still vestiges of the nasty freeze that struck the state in February 2021. Though much of the ill-fated flora has been removed, it is not uncommon to see a droopy cactus or blighted palm tree still trying to recover from that freezing February. 

With another freeze expected in Central Texas, KXAN talked to an ecologist about what Texans can expect for their plants in the upcoming weather.

Will this freeze be as bad for plants as the last one was? 

Most likely not, said Karl Flocke, Woodland Ecologist with the Texas A&M Forest Service.

“One of the main issues with our deep freeze in 2021 was the timing of the freeze,” Flocke said. 

Prior to that event, the weather started to warm, and some plants, especially some trees, responded as if it were Spring by spouting new buds and leaves. 

“And that was one of the reasons we had so much damage in the spring of 2021. Right now, it is the start of Winter. This is actually a very seasonal time for a deep freeze, and the plant should be much better acclimated to respond to a deep freeze right now as opposed to later on, like in February,” he said. 

What plants should people give a little extra tender loving care to?

Plants that are endemic to the region should be able to withstand the forecasted weather. However, other plants not adapted to cold climates should probably be brought inside, Flocke explained. 

“Typically, it’s going to be things like citrus trees (and) avocados; a lot of cactus and succulents; house plants, in general, can’t withstand freezing temperatures for very long,” he said. 

“And, obviously, we’re looking at probably some prolonged and deep freezes in the next couple of days,” Flocke continued.  

Flocke said if you are unsure, to research the plant to find out the region where it can be found and whether it can endure the forecasted freezing temperatures. 

What can you do?

“One of the best things you can do to prepare plants outside before it freezes is to water them prior to the freeze. Water is a tremendous insulator – it really helps, especially down with the roots and in the soil,” Flocke said. 

Plant owners can also cover vulnerable flora with plastic sheeting or blankets.

“A plant (is) not generating its own heat. So what you’re really doing is trapping that heat from the ground around it,” Flocke said. 

What about wrapping a vulnerable bush with Christmas lights that generate heat for a warm and festive plant?

 “I’ve heard that strategy before. I’m a little hesitant to recommend it simply because of the potential fire hazards of putting electrical appliances and things out around plants. You do kind of run that risk sometimes, especially if they’re a little bit older and not in good repair,” he said. 

How to know if your plant is damaged?

Flocke said it is hard to tell if your plant has been damaged by the freezing temperatures or if it is part of its normal cycle.

“You’re not going to know until after the freeze is really over what the effect was on a plant,” he said. 

“For plants that are damaged by freezing, what actually happens is the cells holding water within them rupture. And that causes the plant to physically wilt, start to shrivel up (and) bend over,” he said.