What Does Cold or Freeze Damage Look Like?

I often get asked what to look for when it comes to frost or cold damage to plumerias. Here is a photo taken of a damaged plumeria branch after “the big freeze” in Florida. Damaged branches will turn brown, and in some cases the tip will turn black, as in this case. The black tip is rotted plant tissue and must be cut off to prevent further damage to the plant. If the branches are merely browned, but hard and firm with no soft spots, no action may be necessary. But, check it frequently to make sure there is no further damage.

To treat an affected tree: With a sterilized cutter, cut below any black or soft mushy area until you get to clean white growth. The cut surface should not show any brown spots. These areas can continue to rot, and travel down the plant and kill it. Treat the cut with a fungicide.

This was the first year I had cold damage. We live near the gulf and don’t usually see temperatures as cold as inland, but this year has been very unusual. The gulf temperatures are lower than usual this year and not providing the usual insulation against cold snaps. For the first time, our outdoor digital thermometer registered below freezing on a few nights. Damage was not limited to plumerias, our Christmas” palms suffered greatly as well. I am looking forward to spring, it can’t get here soon enough.

What To Do If Your Plumeria Has Frost Damage

Many of you in Florida have experienced cold damage to your plumerias for the first time due to the record breaking cold this year. How do you know if you have damage? If the branch tips are mushy or black they have been damaged by frost or freezing. Cut the tips back until you get clean white wood to prevent the rot from spreading down the tree. Try to cut just above a leaf node. New branches will grow in the spring.