Wondering how to tell if your plant is dead?
There’s nothing like a defoliated evergreen in winter to have us asking how to tell if your plant is dead. Too, sometimes it’s tough to tell if a deciduous plant is dead or just playing possum. But knowing if a plant is really dead after a freeze may not be impossible.
And, often we choose evergreens because they add winter interest to our gardens. So, when these plants decide appear to die in winter, our gardens become particularly unappealing.
Nandina is one that may look dead after a freeze.
But, your heavenly bamboo probably isn’t actually dead. Fortunately, there are some easy test to help you know how to tell if your plant is dead. And, these tests can work for both evergreen and deciduous plants alike. So, that means Nandina and many other kinds of plants as well.
So, how to test a plant to see if it is alive or dead?
For woody outdoor plants, simply scratching the bark may tell you if your plant is dead or alive. In the event that your plant looks dead, but you aren’t sure. Give it a little scratch test.
- Nicking a branch just a little bit with your fingernail.
- If your fingernail isn’t strong enough, use a pruning tool to make your little cut.
- And don’t make a huge gouge or big tear.
What you should see if your plant isn’t dead.
- If the branch is alive, you should see bright green, yellow or sometimes white.
- Nandina is one that shows yellow when it is alive.
- Living branches may ooze a little water when you nick them.
- If the branch is dead, it will look brown.
If one branch is dead, the shrub may still be alive.
When you make your first nick, make the cut close to the tip of the branch in question.
- If the first nick is brown and dead, don’t give up.
- Make another nick further down the branch.
- In fact, you can repeat nicks all the way down a branch.
- Only part of the plant may be dead!
- If that’s the case, you may be able to salvage the plant.
What will a living shrub branch feel like?
- Living branches should be supple.
- However, living branches can be firm.
- In contrast, dead branches will be brittle.
- As well, dead branches on Nandina tend to be shriveled too.
- And just because some of the leaves are brown, doesn’t mean your evergreen plant is a goner.
- Too, the dead shrubs may be very hard to nick or cut.
Making little nicks is a very helpful way how to tell if your plant is dead or alive. Really, it’s that easy! And, again, remember to only make small nicks. That’s because most plants can recover from small bark cuts. However, if you damage a lot of bark, odds are your plant will give up the ghost. And, this holds true with both evergreen and deciduous plants.
Dead top growth doesn’t always mean an entirely dead plant!
Even if the top growth doesn’t pass the test, this isn’t the only way to tell if your plant is dead. That’s because some plants will sprout anew from the roots. And Nandina is really good at doing this. In fact, most common plants in the barberry family can survive at the root level to sprout anew come spring.
This means all is not always lost if your plant doesn’t pass the branch nicking test. If you’re really impatient, you can dig up your plant and check the roots to see if they’re still healthy. But if you dig up the plant, you may stunt the new growth.
So, in conclusion, sometimes being patient and waiting for new life to emerge in spring will be the best way to know if your plant is dead or alive.
Now that your plant’s alive, what’s next?
Now you know how to tell if your plant is dead or alive! And hopefully, you’ve determined your plant is alive.
But, if much of it looks dead, you now probably need to figure out how to prune out the dead parts of your living shrub. Or you might need to learn more about healthy roots so you can determine if your underground plant is still alive despite top growth dieback.
So, how can you learn how to prune and get more help with your gardening questions?
Well, sign up now & we’ll let you know the minute we re-open enrollment for our online gardening classes and group garden coaching society memberships. That way you’ll be first in line to get our BEST HELP so you can stop struggling to garden and grow a better gardening lifestyle and garden!