You can’t leave all the plants will die

Cold weather

The effects of cold

Cold weather, particularly frost, causes the water in plant cells to freeze, damaging the cell wall. Frost-damaged plants are easy to spot, their growth becomes limp, blackened and distorted. Evergreen plants often turn brown and the leaves of tender plants take on a translucent appearance. Frost problems are often made worse where plants face the morning sun, as this causes them to defrost quickly, rupturing their cell walls.

Hardy plants and tough evergreens can also be damaged by prolonged spells of severe cold when soil becomes frozen. Roots are unable to take up water and plants die from lack of moisture. Periods of cold, frosty weather during April and May can also kill blossom and damage fruit.

Minimising damage

Prevention is far better than cure, so try to minimise the damaging effects of cold on your plants:

  • Avoid golden or variegated plant varieties that are often more tender.
  • Choose plants that are reliably hardy in the area where you live.
  • Avoid high-nitrogen fertilisers as they encourage plants to make lots of sappy leafy growth that is particularly susceptible to damage, especially early and late in the year.
  • Make sure tender specimens are planted in a sheltered spot, under large trees and shrubs or against walls, give them some heat and protection during the winter.
  • Ensure that plants with tender flower buds or shoots are not planted in east-facing sites.
  • Leave the old growth of tender plants unpruned over the winter months. This will help to protect the central crown of the plant and take the brunt of any frost damage. If plants are cut back hard in autumn new growth could be damaged by frost.
  • Cold air and frost always descend to the lowest point in a garden so avoid planting tender plants in obvious frost pockets.

Protecting plants

The ever-increasing number of tender plants on offer may not withstand sustained cold without some form of protection. How you protect your plants from the effects of cold depends on the type of plants and the situation they are growing in.

  • Plants that are trained against walls or tender plants growing in the open ground can be protected with simple, fleece-covered frames. Alternatively, sandwich a layer of bracken leaves or straw between two large sections of chicken wire and use this to cover plants during frosty evenings. Tender bulbs, corms and tender, herbaceous plants (that die back) should be covered with a thick mulch of manure, straw or old leaves to prevent the soil from freezing. In the spring, new shoots can be protected with a loose layer of straw or a bell-cloche.
  • Evergreen plants will benefit from a thick layer of mulch around their bases to keep the soil frost-free. This will allow them to take up moisture during periods of cold weather and stop them from becoming dehydrated.
  • Tender plants should be grown in pots so that they can be moved inside during bad weather. Take cuttings of those that cannot be grown in pots and overwinter these in a warm greenhouse, ready for planting in spring.
  • Protect the crowns of tree ferns and insulate their trunks by wrapping them in layers of fleece or hessian stuffed with straw. Cordylines and palms should be treated similarly, by tying their leaves into bunches, to protect their crowns.
  • Protect low-growing plants from wet weather by covering them with a sheet of glass or a cloche and surrounding them with a layer of gravel or grit, to ensure swift drainage.
  • Choose outdoor containers that are frost-proof to prevent them cracking. Lift pots and containers into a shed or greenhouse for protection. Those that can’t be moved should be placed on ‘pot feet’ to prevent waterlogging. Using a light, free-draining compost with added perlite will also help with this. Insulate them with a layer of bubble wrap or hessian to prevent them freezing and cracking and ensure plant rootballs stay healthy.

Damaged plants

If your plants do get frosted this doesn’t necessarily mean the end for them, many plants will recover given time. However there are ways of minimising the damage:

  • Protect them from the morning sun, which can damage growth if the plant defrosts too quickly. If you can’t move the plants, try covering them with a layer of black plastic to block out the sun.
  • Cut back frosted growth in spring to a healthy, new bud, to prevent further die back and encourage plants to produce fresh, new shoots.
  • Feed damaged plants with a balanced fertiliser (one with equal amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) to encourage strong, healthy growth.
  • Dig up small, tender plants and take them into the greenhouse. Many will quickly produce new growth and recover, provided they are not subjected to prolonged periods of heavy frost, wet or cold.
  • Newly-planted specimens will often lift themselves proud of the soil surface if there is a hard frost straight after planting. Check them regularly and re-firm the ground around them to ensure their roots are always in contact with the soil.

Dealing with snow

The benefit of snow is that it acts as an insulator, protecting plants from the cold and frost, however, a heavy layer of snow can also cause leaves and branches to break, so it’s important to know how to deal with it when it arrives:

  • Shake excess snow from the branches of large trees, shrubs and hedges, to prevent them from becoming disfigured by the weight.
  • Remove heavy deposits of snow from the roofs of greenhouses or cold frames to let in the light and prevent the structures from bending under the weight.
  • Use lengths of string to support the branches of conifers and stop them being pulled out of shape. Branches that move away from the main plant won’t spring back into place when the snow melts.
  • Avoid walking on snow-covered grass as it will damage the turf beneath and leave unsightly marks on the lawn. It can also encourage the growth of fungal diseases which thrive in the cool damp conditions.

Watch video

Toby Buckland checks plants for signs of growth after a harsh winter.

Understanding Plant Hormones

Hormones – Mighty Messengers!

Hormones get things done. Think of them as chemical messengers that are made in one place in the body and deliver their message in a totally different place in the body. And just like hot sauce, a little goes a long way. Hormones are usually found in very small concentrations, but boy to they pack a punch! We know hormones cause a lot of changes in humans (ah, puberty), but did you know that plants have hormones, too? Plants miss out on all the fun of body hair, acne, and voice changes, but read on to learn about the amazing effects that hormones have on plant growth and development!

The Big Five

We’ll cover five major types of plant hormones: auxin, gibberellin, cytokinin, ethylene, and abscisic acid. These hormones can work together or independently to influence plant growth.


You’ve seen auxin in action. Well you haven’t seen the actual auxin molecule itself with the naked eye, but you’ve seen what it can do to a plant grown near a window. Have you ever wondered how a plant bends towards sunlight? Well, it has to do with auxin in the stem. Darwin and his son were curious about it, too. (Published in: The Power and Movement in Plants) However, they didn’t know at the time what exactly was causing plants to bend toward the light. Auxin itself wasn’t discovered until the late 1920s, and it was the first of the 5 major types of plant hormones to be studied. Auxin has lots of jobs but most importantly it stimulates growth, and if a plant doesn’t naturally produce auxin itself, it will die. So you can see auxin is pretty important. The technical alias for auxin is indole-3-acetic acid or IAA (just incase you ever see it written is “IAA” – it means the same thing as “Auxin”).

Auxin is involved in cell growth and cell expansion, so it is produced primarily in parts of the plant that are actively growing like the stem (specifically, the very tiptop of the stem). This is where it gets interesting. Auxin is transported (read: active process – requires energy) in one direction in a plant – downward from the top to the bottom, like a one-way road from the stem tip to the roots. It is the only plant hormone known to do this. Therefore the concentration of auxin is highest at the top of the plant and decreases as you get closer to the roots, this controls the overall shape of the plant and helps keep the primary stem of a plant the leader.

Have you ever seen the top of a single stem of tree that is pruned sprout into more than 20 new stems? That is because auxin maintains apical dominance it prevents lots of lateral buds and branches from growing on the side of the stem. When you prune the primary stem of a plant, the source of the auxin is removed, then no single stem is dominant anymore – apical dominance is removed.

Back to our bendy plant in the windowsill, remember how auxin is involved in making cells longer? Well auxin will move to the shaded side of the plant stem and cause those cells to grow longer, while the cells on the sunny side of the plant stay the same size. That will cause the plant to bend to one side – toward the sun!


Gibberellin causes some similar effects in plants as auxin, but it is a very different hormone. Gibberellins were discovered originally in Japan. A fungus called Gibberella fujikuroi infected rice plants and caused them to grow too tall and fall over. The infectious fungus produced a chemical that stimulated the growth in rice plants. The chemical was isolated and named Gibberellin after the fungus. It was later found that plants naturally produce variations of these chemicals!

Gibberellins play an important role in several developmental stages in plants, but their claim to fame is making stems longer. Gibberellins promote stem elongation between nodes on the stem. A node is a place on a stem where a leaf attaches, so gibberellins elongate the internodes. It is easiest to see the absence of gibberellin in dwarf plants and rosette plants – there is very little space between nodes on a stem and the leaves are clustered toward the base of the plant.

What’s the big deal about knowing how to control stem elongation in plants? Well, when would it be beneficial to know how to make a plant stem shorter or longer? Biologists can prevent plants in a greenhouse from making gibberellins to keep them a manageable size. That’s handy. Or what if you’re a farmer and your business is something that comes from the stem of a plant? Longer stems would mean more profit for you, right? Gibberellins sprayed on sugar cane in Hawaii elongate the stem between the nodes. Longer stems mean more stored sugar. More sugar to sell means more coin! Knowing about plant hormones just makes cents!


Who knew that fish could play a role in the discovery of a plant hormone? Aged herring sperm DNA can promote cell division. The molecule that is responsible for this was named kinetin. Soon after, a substance that had the same biological effect as kinetin was found in plants, it stimulated plant cells to divide when in culture with auxin. The substance was named cytokinin and it is involved in cell division and in the making of new plant organs, like a root or a shoot. Cytokinins are produced in the root apical meristems (very tip of the roots) and travel upward hitching a ride with water and traveling up the stem through the xylem. The movement of cytokinins is passive – it does not require energy!

Cytokinins are like the fountain of youth in plants. They delay senescence or the natural aging process that leads to death in plants. In the cell cycle, cytokinins promote the movement from the G2 phase to the M phase. In other words, they encourage cells to divide!

Cytokinins are involved in repair, too. If a plant becomes wounded, it can fix itself with the help of cytokinins and auxin. Remember how some hormones work together to affect plants? Well if the concentration of auxin and cytokinin are equal, then normal cell division will take place. If the concentration of auxin is greater than cytokinin then roots will form. If the concentration of auxin is less than cytokinin then shoots will form.


Have you ever noticed that if you put a really ripe, brown banana right next to a bunch of green bananas, the unripe bananas will ripen and turn yellow much faster? How does that happen? Well, the brown banana is communicating with the green bananas using a hormone called ethylene. Ethylene is a plant hormone that affects ripening and rotting in plants. It is a particularly interesting plant hormone because it exists as a gas. No other plant hormone is gaseous! Ethylene can be produced in almost any part of a plant, and can diffuse through the plant’s tissue, outside the plant, and travel through the air to affect a totally different plant. How cool is that!

Here’s how it was discovered. Tomato farmers noticed something weird happening with their crops. Back in the day many farmers used kerosene heaters in their greenhouses to warm the air so that they could grow tomatoes during the winter. With the advent of electricity, some farmers switched to new, fancy electric heaters, but they soon found that their tomatoes were not ready to be picked at the same time the way they were when the greenhouses were warmed with kerosene heaters. The burning of the kerosene in the heaters produced a molecule similar to ethylene that synchronized the ripening of the tomatoes!

The formation of ethylene requires oxygen, and the agricultural industry has used this tidbit of information to their advantage. If you control the partial pressure of oxygen and carbon dioxide in a truck carrying produce (specifically low O2 high CO2) you can prevent ethylene synthesis and thus slow the ripening process. This is helpful when fruits and vegetables are grown in one region of the world and then shipped many miles away to be sold. Growers don’t want their produce to go bad before you even have a chance to buy it!


When our bodies need water we feel thirsty. The “thirst signal” signifies that we’re dehydrated and we need a drink of water. When a plant needs water, for example during a drought, it doesn’t have too many options. A rain dance is pretty much out of the question. Plants produce a chemical messenger, called abscisic acid, to alert the rest of the plant that it is water stressed. Abscisic acid is made in droughted leaves, droughted roots, and developing seeds and it can travel both up and down in a plant stem in the xylem or phloem sounding the alarm.

Think back to transport in plants, how does water typically move through a plant? (Reminder: soil -> roots -> stem -> leaves -> air) Water molecules exit a plant through tiny pores in the leaves called stomata. Each stoma (singular) has two kidney bean shaped bodyguards on either side of the pore, whose job it is to open and close the stoma. When the guard cells are full of water, or turgid, the stoma is open. When water leaves the guard cells, they become flaccid, and the stoma is closed.

Now imagine you’re a thirsty plant. It hasn’t rained in weeks and there is no moisture in the soil around your roots. You’re running dangerously low on water. What can you do to prevent yourself from losing any more precious H2O? Close the stomata! How do plants do it? Abscisic acid travels to the guard cells, sending a message that water is scarce. The guard cells spring to attention, and a rush of charged particles exit the guard cells, which subsequently triggers water inside the guard cell to leave, too. The guard cells shrivel and the stomata close! No more water is able to exit the plant through the stomata.

That’s a brief overview on the five major types of plant hormones: auxin, gibberellin, cytokinin, ethylene, and abscisic acid. Remember that hormones are potent little chemical messengers, but they would lose their effectiveness if they hung around and built up in the tissues of the plant. So they are broken down and replaced over time.

There is so much more to learn about plant hormones! A great textbook for those who want all the wonderful nitty-gritty details is Plant Physiology by Taiz and Zeiger.

Plant Hormones Effect Spring!

It’s finally starting to heat up again after winter in the northern hemisphere. Spring is in the air and everyone and everything is getting ready for it. Trees that dropped their leaves are breaking out in bloom with new shoots and flowers. We know the leaves are going to come back when spring comes, and we simply take it for granted, but let’s take a quick look at what really is going on.

10 Steps to help and revive a dying, sick or neglected hedge.

10 Steps to help and revive a dying, sick or neglected overgrown hedge.

In most cases a hedge is grown from a fast growing, but still robust perennial shrub. Most of these can take a hard pruning and come back quite quickly. Depending on the severity of the damage one will need to make a call on replacing the hedge, some of the plants that form the hedge or giving it a hard pruning to reform the shape and health of your hedge.

If your hedge is in a not so healthy or overgrown state, follow these steps and tips to restore its former glory.

Step 1: Evaluate and assess. Pull back the outer branches to access the inner growth pattern and structure of the hedge.

Step 2: Remove any dead and diseased plant material.

Step 3: Nominate poor performing and affected branches and cut them back hard. Ideally make these cuts where healthy shoots join the branch.

Step 4: Prune off excess growth to encourage air and light movement within the hedge.

Step 5: In the case of severely overgrown hedges follow the steps above and additionally remove the top third of the plant to around 20 cm beneath the final desired height for the hedge. If more than one third needs to be remove do so over two growing seasons.

Step 6: If entire plants of the hedge have died back remove them and replace with new strong plants.

Step 7: Always feed and water any hedge well after a hard pruning. The hedge needs energy for the encouraged growth from somewhere and with less foliage it is not able to photosynthesis as well as usual.

Step 8: A deep watering less often is always better than shallow regular watering, this encourages a strong deep root system. Regular watering however is necessary for a week or so after cutting back.

Step 9: Apply a layer of mulch or compost around the base of each plant to improve soil temperatures and provide nutrients to leach in during watering.

Step 10: Gradually reshape and form the hedge with future pruning throughout the growing season

Tips when pruning and reviving a sick, dying or neglected overgrown hedge:

Keep a close eye on the new growth of your rehabilitated hedge, this succulent new growth is tender and susceptible to fungal and disease infestation. Keep a close eye on your hedge until newly grown foliage is fully hardened.

Always feed and water a hedge well after pruning hard and removing excessive plant material.

Never add diseased material to a compost heap.

When to prune a hedge:

Only do hard pruning to your hedge during Spring and Autumn. Prune too late and you will encourage new hedge growth which won’t harden off before the cold of winter. Prune too early and the same occurs. Avoid pruning hard in the middle of summer, severe heat and drought will make it impossible for your poor hedge to recover.

Light ongoing pruning is encouraged throughout the growing season, cut twigs and branches back to where they meet secondary growth branching from the stem to be pruned.

Uh oh. Did you come home to a less-than-happy plant? Don’t panic just yet! Your plant still has some hope before it meets its untimely demise.

What can you do to revive your dying plant? Most people immediately assume that they should water it, but an extra dose of water can actually harm a plant that doesn’t need it.

Instead, know that a plant’s health fluctuates if it’s getting too much or too little of something. Most solutions to your plant’s health issues are easy fixes that restore it to its natural balance. For example, a plant getting too much sun simply needs to find a new home in a shadier spot.

We’ve identified all of the signs you’ll need to look out for and the best solutions for each issue your plant can have. To help you figure out just what your plant needs and how to revive a plant, we’ve identified all the signs you’ll need to look out for and the best solutions for any issue a plant can have.

Can I Revive a Dying Plant?

The answer is yes! First and foremost, the dying plant’s roots must be alive to have any chance of coming back to life. Some healthy, white roots mean that the plant has a chance at making a comeback. It’s even better if your plant stems still show signs of green.

To get started, trim back any dead leaves and some foliage, especially if the majority of the roots are damaged. This will make it so the roots have less to support and can recover more efficiently. Next, trim the dead part of the stems until you see green. Ideally, new stems will grow from these trimmed stems.

Now you know how to check for your plant’s chances of living. Read on to get familiar with certain warning signs and learn the particulars for reviving a dying plant.

Signs of a Dying Plant and How to Help it Recover

If your plant is suffering from too much water (more on that below), hold off on adding fertilizer or plant food to your plant’s soil until it’s fully recovered. The roots are sensitive and need time to heal. Keep water-damaged plants out of direct sun and lightly water until their roots have recovered. You’ll know its fully recovered when the plants leaves return to its normal green color and the soil is neither too moist nor too hard.

All plants respond differently to sun. Some plants thrive in full sun while others can’t handle the stress of direct sunlight. Sudden changes in a plant’s environment, like relocating to a different spot in the room, can put your plant in shock. Look up your plant’s specific sun needs so you know exactly how much sun your plant desires and where in your home it can thrive the most.

Plants are the perfect place for common pests to invade. Thankfully, most pests are easy to remove. You can also try adding insect-repelling plants around your other plants if you want to keep pests far away. Deformed or discolored leaves are a result of bugs nibbling and sucking on the plant. Abnormal growths in your plants are usually indicators of bugs who have burrowed partially or fully into your plant. Insect eggs are another reason why growths pop up in your plant’s leaves.

Your plant may be hungry and in need of nutrients. This can happen if you haven’t added fertilizer or plant food to replenish the nutrients in the soil your plant uses up. A lack of nutrients can inhibit a plant’s overall ability to thrive since it has nothing to fuel and support its growth. Homemade plant food is easy to make with common household items and has all the nutrients your plant needs.

If you feel like your plant has has crossed the point of no return after trying to bring it back to life, you can compost your plants to help keep your next plant alive. It can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months until your plant makes a full recovery, so be patient and keep a close eye on your plant’s progress during this time!

You’ll surely make your plant much happier after some well-deserved tender loving care. Make sure you keep up with your plant’s sun, watering and soil needs after you bring it back to life so it can stay healthy. Consider picking up some new plant friends to keep your plant company on its road to recovery. You can use our guide to the best houseplants for every room to get an idea of the best plants for your home. Looking for care tips for a specific plant? Check out our guides for pothos, peace lilies and snake plants!

Sudden Plant Death: Reasons A Houseplant Is Turning Brown And Dying

Sometimes a healthy-looking plant can decline and die in a matter of a few days, even when there are no apparent signs of trouble. Although it may be too late for your plant, investigating to determine the reason for sudden plant death may save time and money in the future.

Why a Plant May Suddenly Die

There are a number of factors that can lead to the sudden dying of plants. Below are the most common.

Improper Watering

Improper watering is often the reason for sudden dying of plants. If you forgot to water for a few days, it’s possible that the roots dried up. However, the opposite is more likely, as too much water is often to blame for dying container plants.

Root rot, a result of wet, poorly drained soil, can be occurring under the surface of the soil, even if the plant looks healthy. The problem is easy to see if you remove the dead plant from the pot. While healthy roots are firm and pliable, rotted roots are mushy, with a seaweed-like appearance.

Don’t be over-ambitious with the watering can when you replace the plant. Almost all plants are healthiest if the soil is allowed to dry between watering. Water the plant deeply until it drips through the drainage hole, then let the pot drain completely before returning it to the drainage saucer. Never let the pot stand in water. Water again only if the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.

Be sure the plant is in a well-drained potting mix – not garden soil. Most importantly, never place a plant in a pot without a drainage hole. Improper drainage is a sure-fire invitation for dying container plants.


If you determine watering issues aren’t to blame for sudden plant death, look closely for signs of insects. Some common pests are difficult to spot. For example, mealybugs are indicated by cottony masses, usually on the joints or undersides of leaves.

Spider mites are too tiny to see with the bare eye, but you may notice the fine webbing they leave on the leaves. Scale is a tiny bug with a waxy outer covering.


Although it is unlikely, be sure your indoor plant hasn’t come in contact with herbicide spray or other toxic substances. Additionally, be sure the leaves haven’t been splashed with fertilizer or other chemicals.

Other Reasons a Houseplant is Turning Brown

If your houseplant is alive but the leaves are turning brown, the above reasons may apply. Additional reasons for browning of leaves include:

  • Too much (or too little) sunlight
  • Fungal diseases
  • Over-fertilizing
  • Lack of humidity

After the cold months and the fickle weather this spring, there may be some wilting blooms in your garden. But, don’t give up on them just yet. A few simple steps is all it takes to revive these dying plants and bring them back to life for the season.

First, it’s important to take a plant out of its pot and check the roots to see if they are rotting. How can you tell? Roots are normally a light color, so ones that are not are likely rotted. Generally, root rot happens for two reasons: Too much water, which can cause roots to die from lack of oxygen, and a dormant fungus that comes to life from overwatering and eats eats away at the roots. Take a pair of scissors and snip off the rotted parts of the roots, and then also cut a 1/2-inch into the good roots to make sure there is no lingering rot.

After that, check to see if there are any insects like ticks and ants buried in the soil. If so, use a plant insecticide. Then add potting soil to a new planter and put the plant inside. Fill the entire pot with potting soil until it’s an inch from the top. (Tip: The new pot should be slightly smaller than the previous pot you used for the plant. This helps to increase foliage growth over root growth.) Finally add water to the pot until it overflows, and watch your plant slowly revitalize.

Check out the clip above for a video tutorial showing each of the steps. Do you know of other ways to revive dying plants? Let us know in comments below.

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