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Hail No! Plant Damage Discourse.

April 10, 2015

I anticipate many clients getting in touch to ask what’s causing weird plant damage this spring. We haven’t experienced a strange invasion of locusts. Rather, it’s March going out like a lion that’s done the most damage already this season – at least in our neck of the woods.

Aeonium hail plant damage

Thick, fleshy leaves of tender Aeonium look like they suffered a case of the Pox following a hail storm. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of a cruddy season for this tender plant.

So, if your plants are looking anything like these images, odds are the damage is mechanical. And, no the culprit probably isn’t an insect, deer, bunny or ground-dwelling rodent.

Crown fritillary plant damage from hail.

Many ready-to-open flower buds had the color hammered right out of them as seen in this hail damaged crown frittilary. The flowers should still open, but they look awful.

And, while many insects can cause damage that shows up looking similar to some of this hail destruction, these plants haven’t been hit by any number of insects like aphids, weevils and spittle bugs that emerge to do damage soon.

Cardiocrinium plant damage from hail

Giant Cardiocrinium lily leaves took a hammering from hail & have the scars to show for it.
Fortunately, no big tears though!

If you’re in the Seattle area, your garden demolition may have been caused by the same 45 minute hailstorm that shredded and poxed our tender spring plants just a few days ago.

Hydrangea plant damage following hail storm

Just-emerged climbing hydrangea leaves are shredded & torn following a hail storm. Many trees sustained similar damage.  Soon, the worst leaves will look brown & dead.

Most plants will survive the onslaught of frozen pellets, but they just won’t look as lovely this season as in years when March goes out like a lamb.

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Daffodil plant damage from hail

Some spring bulb flowers were shredded from the flower stalk completely.
Others, like this daffodil, continue to bloom despite hail-shredded petals.

Destruction like this is a good reminder that every gardening year is different. We live in an imperfect world as these images so quickly illustrate.

Sedum plant damage from hail storm

Even hardy, big leaf sedum suffered pox mark damage from hail.
The leaves will look cruddy all season.

In years past, we’ve watched the entire south side of a leafing out tree get shredded by hail and wind. As the season progressed, that side of the tree continued to look ratty – those leaves just don’t ever recover. But the tree itself does, and it looks great when it leafs out the following spring (assuming no new hail and wind tear it to bits again.)

Stippled plant damage from hail.

Many spring bulb leaves look stippled from the hail. While similar looking to damage from sucking insects, this is damage is from ice pellets.

At least with early ephemerals like these species tulips, they will soon be overwhelmed by other, later season plants that fill in our garden beds for the growing season ahead. These damaged little leaves just won’t stand out for long.

Rumex plant damage from hail

Hardy Rumex leaves were torn from the mid-rib by the hail storm.

Rumex is one plant we can cut hard to the ground following an early spring shredding, and it should send up another round of fresh foliage for the current season. Learn more about growing edible Rumex and how to care for it.

Peony plant damage from hail.

Tender peony foliage is ripped to shreds from thundering hail storm. Some tip grown was also destroyed, but many flower buds seem to have survived intact.

Notice in these damage images that nothing is bitten away. That’s a key to understanding that nothing was actually eating the plants. What’s ripped remains in place — at least until it dries up and falls away leaving plants looking tattered for the spring and summer months ahead.

3 Comments

  1. Diane O'Neill says:

    Is it better to cut off the damaged hosta and daylily leaves?

  2. Diane, thanks for asking. If the leaves are heavily damaged, you could try cutting them off. This early in the season, there is a chance the plant will generate new leaves from the roots. When you remove damaged material, the plant can stop wasting energy on it and throw its power into new things. But, a plant’s ability to do so can vary by plant and by season.

  3. […] late in applying covers. The “dings” on the fruit to the left were caused by an insane hail in April that also shredded […]

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