There's hope for ivy and other "dead" plants

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog ivy returnsThis ivy, which is growing up a tree looked dead, but small, shiny leaves have sprouted. The plant will rebound from the cold winter. Photo by Doug OsterAs plants emerge from a brutal winter into an unusually cool spring, many might look dead, but are just waiting for temperatures to warm up so they can begin a come back.

English ivy really took a hit in the frigid cold. Whether it's growing up the side of house or creeping along on the ground, many plants have turned completely brown. The good new is most ivy has already started to return. Small, shiny leaves have emerged from the vines in many gardens. It's going to take most of the season the the plants to rebound, but hopefully they will look great by mid-summer.

Driving around town, it's evident boxwoods also took a beating. For any evergreen plant like boxwoods, blue atlas cedar, leyland cypress, rhododendrons and azaleas the advice is the same. Wait a couple more weeks to see if anything sprouts. I'd also recommend applying a fertilizer like Hollytone. It's organic, inexpensive and easy to find at any good nursery or garden center.

Check the branches by bending the tips. If they break right off and look brown in the middle they are probably dead. If they are pliable and there's color inside, there's still hope. Deadwood is always removed from shrubs and trees. Dead is dead.

This extremely cold winter also has me re-thinking the varieties of plants which I want add to the garden. The country is divided into planting zones, determined by the climate. Pittsburgh is technically zone 6, but that didn't hold true this winter. It was more like we were zone 5 or colder. I'm sticking with zone 5 plants in the future and considering more native for the landscape.

Don't panic when it comes to the brown leaves in the garden, most plants are resilient and should return. They might not look the same though for a while, but eventually will be beautiful again.

The garden teaches us lessons each season, and this year we're reminded again that Mother Nature is always in charge.

Here's a segment from KDKA-TV news that shows some of the plants which are struggling.




Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.