Ask Burton : This week, we’re dealing with – we hope! – the last of the trouble spots of the intense February freeze. Q: I have a (Japanese yew, live oak, Shumard red oak, sunshine ligustrum, eleagnus, there are others as well) that have taken a turn for the worse as the heat really started to peak this summer. My plants are well established, and my sprinkler is getting good coverage – I checked! But now I have twigs and a handful of limbs dying, and occasionally whole plants are starting to fail without obvious answers why.

A: The explanation, in many cases, goes back to a few days before the February freeze.

In the weeks leading up to the storm, the Metroplex had balmy weather for the time of year, and many plants had already begun to lose their winter hardening. We then proceeded to have the worst area freeze since shortly after the Second World War. The cold alone was devastating, but the combination of the two events led to far more plant damage than if we’d had a consistently cold winter with the same freeze.

The damage seems like it’s happening now, but the bark of trunks and twigs of many species of plants cracked during the freeze in a frustratingly inconsistent manner. The damage – which wasn’t obvious in cooler weather when twigs and branches with partial bark damage could still transport enough moisture for the plant’s needs – shows up clearly now that the plant needs to be able to move a lot of water around to deal with high temperatures.

Many trees and shrubs showing such damage will be fine, in time. Plants with minor bark damage will repair themselves and go on just fine. Some won’t. Don’t fertilize trees and shrubs with dying twigs, limbs, or obvious heat stress right now, because it will only make the situation worse. Just water generously. Hold off on fertilizing them until mid-September.