Lee Valley Tools Gardening Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 2
April 2007
How Plants Know When to Rise and Shine

Once its chilling hours have been met, the plant metaphorically hits the snooze button on its spring alarm clock until conditions are right (for example, rising temperatures) for it to start growing again. The breakdown of growth-inhibiting ABA by the cold and an increase in growth promoters like gibberellins are the biological processes at play here.

Once dormancy is broken, growth starts slowly. As tissues develop, however, they become less tolerant of freezing temperatures, so the later a cold snap, the greater the likelihood that a plant will be damaged.

That said, frost damage – whether from a late spring frost or after a mid-winter thaw that caused lower-chill plants to come out of dormancy – does not necessarily mean death, because many plants have another set of buds in reserve.

So, if you have frost-damaged plants this spring, be patient – they may come back. If they do, treat them especially well this growing season to avoid further stress, and, as with all gardening, cross your fingers and hope for the best.
  A tender bud.
A late cold snap would damage this bud and may cause die-back. If this happens, the tree will require special care.

Lorri MacKay

Crab apple tree photo (page 2) and flower bud photo (above) provided by Vicki Morell.

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