5 Warning Signs Your Plants Are Experiencing Cold Shock

Cold Shock

Did you know that indoor and outdoor plants are both susceptible to cold shock? Fortunately, this issue is preventable, provided you know what to look out for.

Learning more about the typical warning signs of cold shock, as well as the steps you can take to minimize further damage, can help you protect your plants during the winter months.

Defining Cold Shock

Just like humans, plants can become too cold. Cold shock happens when a plant is exposed to temperatures below the minimum temperature it can tolerate. Cold shock can also happen as a result of a rapid drop in temperature.

5 Key Signs of Cold Shock

It’s not always easy to recognize when a plant is too cold. But there are five common warning signs you can watch out for that can tell you that your plants may be experiencing cold shock.

Your plants may display a single symptom or a combination of these symptoms:

1. Discolored Leaves

If you notice your plants are sporting newly discolored leaves, this could be a sign of cold shock. More than a fall color change, the color damage that results from cold shock causes leaves to develop discolored spots until they eventually die. These spots can be a variety of different colors, including red, brown, and black.

In addition to spots, cold shock can cause entire leaves to become discolored. So, if you notice discoloration that is manifesting across entire leaves instead of in spots, or some combination of the two, it could still be caused by cold shock.

2. Wilted or Drooping Leaves

Most of us know what healthy leaves look like. They are firm and usually a healthy shade of green. There is also a distinct structural integrity that allows them to hold themselves in a particular manner.

When a plant gets too cold, it experiences cell damage. As the damage spreads, its leaves will become less rigid and start to wilt, droop, or curl in on themselves. If this occurs in your plants, make sure you are adhering to your regular watering schedule. If you are able to confirm that you are, then the culprit may likely be cold shock.

3. Root Ball Damage

One of the purposes of the root is to anchor the plant to the ground. When cold shock occurs, the roots can freeze and incur damage. When this happens, the root ball usually loosens, weakening the plant’s foundational support.

If you notice that your plant is sitting lopsided or does not seem firmly anchored, gently touch it to gauge the level of resistance. If it is loose, it is likely that root ball damage has occurred. While this is the most serious form of cold shock, as long as ¾  of the total root zone is undamaged, the plant will likely survive.

4. Stunted Growth

Sometimes, cold shock is not immediately evident. A plant could appear to have no symptoms at first. But if you soon notice that your plant is not growing at the rate it should, this stunted growth could be the result of previous exposure to cold temperatures.

5. Splits in Stems or Trunks

Splits in woody stems or trunks can indicate cold shock. Fortunately, this sign is not as serious as issues like root ball damage and can be remedied with a little extra care. However, splits should not be taken lightly, and it’s best to take action as soon as you notice them to prevent further damage.

Remedies: What You Can Do

If you have plants that have been damaged by cold shock, the first thing to remember is that your response needs to be gentle and patient. Nursing your plants back from cold shock is a process that will take time.

There are several ways to address this problem, including:

  • Giving the plant about an inch of water
  • Trimming any dead roots and repotting the plant
  • Not fertilizing your plants while they are recovering
  • Bringing your potted plants inside
  • Not pruning the affected areas

It is important to ensure you don’t overwater or overtrim the plant before it has a chance to heal.

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