After the Deep Freeze: How to See if Your Shrubs Will Make It

Who can forget the cold days in the Atlanta metro area this past December? On Christmas Eve 2022, the average temperature was 17.5 degrees with a high of 27 degrees. January 2023 wasn’t much warmer with an average temp of 44.5 degrees.

The frigid cold damaged many plants, including shrubs. Follow these steps to test the viability of your shrubs after a deep freeze.

1. Monitor the weather

Wait for the threat of further cold weather to pass before conducting the test in Step #2.

frosted plant

If you live in the metro-Atlanta area, visit First Alert Weather from AtlantaNewsFirst. Consider downloading the app. You can also tune into WSB-TV for the weather report. 

2. Examine your shrubs

Examine the shrubs for visible signs of damage, such as broken branches or wilted leaves.

broken branches

Also try gently bending branches to see if they are flexible. If yes, the shrub could still be alive. If the branch snaps off, your shrub might not be alive, but the best case scenario is that only part of the plant is dead. 

3. Check the bark

Time for the “scratch test.” Carefully scratch the bark on the shrubs with your fingernail or a pocket knife. 


If the tissue underneath is green, the shrub is likely still alive. If the tissue is brown or black, the shrub is likely dead. However, conduct the scratch test more than once. Check the bark closer to the plant’s roots as it could show new growth. 

4. Look for new growth

Check for new growth on the shrubs, such as shoots or leaves. 

new plant growth

If you see new growth, it is a good sign that the shrub is still alive.

5. Prune branches

If the shrub is damaged but still alive, prune away any broken or damaged branches.


Pruning helps the shrub focus on producing new, healthy growth.

Protect your shrubs

It is important to be patient and give your shrubs time to recover from the deep freeze. It may take several weeks or even months for the shrubs to fully recover. 

We also can’t predict what will happen weather-wise, but there’s always the possibility of another deep freeze and more damage. Protect your shrubs by insulating them. For example, add a 2-4 inch layer of mulch to protect their roots. You can also temporarily cover entire shrubs with sheets or blankets. 

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