Hebes are hardy enough to survive the British winter. As natives of North America and New Zealand, they can withstand cold weather. However, even the most cold-hardy plants will struggle with severe cold. So, it’s normal for your hebe plants to get damaged by frost.
The good news is hebe frost damage is reversible. Your plants will recover by themselves in the next growing season. There are also measures you can take to hasten this recovery. Besides, your hebes may not even have frost damage. They might just be dormant. It’s easy to confuse dormancy and frost damage.
So, we must first discuss how to identify hebe frost damage before moving on to prevention and treatment.
Identifying Hebe Frost Damage
Here are the symptoms you need to watch out for. These are proofs of hebe frost damage.
- Discoloured leaves and stems
- Soggy or mushy leaves
- Wilting and dropping leaves
- Split bark
These symptoms are similar to those of dormancy. So, gardeners often get alarmed unnecessarily. Hebes die back in winter to protect themselves from the cold, resulting in similar symptoms. In this case, you don’t have to worry. Your hebes will recover in spring.
However, if those symptoms are due to hebe frost damage. Then, you must move fast as the problem will only worsen. It will start with the most tender and vulnerable parts of the hebe, such as new leaves, shoots and buds. Then, continue until the plant is dead.
The danger doesn’t even end after the hebe dies. Other plants will be at risk because a dead and decaying plant attracts fungi and diseases. So, the frost-damaged hebe is not the only one in danger.
Preventing Hebe Frost Damage
Treatment is not the only option. It’s not even the go-to option for veteran gardeners. They prefer to prevent problems rather than solve them. So, here are some tips for preventing hebe frost damage.
- Grow hebe plants in sheltered locations: Hebes can survive in partial shade, so this won’t create a new problem.
- Mulch the soil in preparation for winter: This will protect plant roots and surrounding soil from frost.
- Use protective covering: You can use frost blankets, cold frames and fleece to protect your hebes from cold.
- Move your plants indoors: If you grow your hebes in containers, move them indoors until spring. However, this means you must learn how to care for them indoors.
These tips, alongside other smart winter gardening practices, are how to protect plants from frost (UK).
Treating Hebe Frost Damage
Finally, here is how to treat hebe frost damage.
Wait Until Spring
Waiting is very important. Remember that this could be a false alarm and frost-damaged hebes will start to recover come spring. So, there is no point in acting too soon, especially in winter. It could cause more damage.
For example, pruning frost-damaged shoots will expose other parts of the plant to the frost. Then, the problem will start again. So, leave the damage shoots until winter is over. Let them protect the rest of the hebe from frost damage.
Take the Long-term Approach
Once winter ends and the new growing season begins, your frost-damaged hebes should start recovering. However, this will take some time, even with your help. So, you need to take a long-term approach towards the treatment of hebe frost damage.
In fact, assess the damage and let the plant fight for itself before taking extreme measures. Pruning too early will cause more problems. For instance, if you make your move before the plant shows new growth, you will have to prune into old woody stems. This will only slow down recovery instead of boosting it. It will also affect flowering.
So, wait until spring and then do the following instead.
- Water regularly: Winter is over. So you can return to your regular watering rate. This will defrost the soil and provide the plant with much-needed water.
- Feed with nutrients: Use slow-release and high-nitrate fertilisers. Nutrition is important in the treatment of hebe frost damage.
- Prune: Only prune if there are young shoots and new growths. Don’t prune into the old wooden stems. In cases of severe hebe frost damage, you may have to wait until late spring before pruning. When the time finally comes, use good technique and clean, sharp, sterile tools.
Hebes die back in winter to protect themselves from the cold. Therefore, your hebes may not have frost damage. Even if they do, this doesn’t have to be the end of the road for them. Just follow the treatment plan we discussed.
However, be patient because the severity of the damage will determine recovery time. A severely damaged hebe will need a longer time to recover. So, be patient, but don’t wait until the plant is beyond saving. Even better, learn how to protect plants from frost (UK).
Can Hebe Plants Recover from Severe Frost Damage?
Yes, even severe hebe frost damage is reversible. The plant just needs some help. However, if recovery is impossible, you should remove the damaged plant to protect the others.
How Often Should I Check My Hebes in Winter?
Check them every 14 days. That’s also how often you should water them in winter. So, you can do both at the same time. However, if you notice hebe frost damage, check more often to monitor the situation.