Can plants recover from cold shock, is a matter of constant worry one may have, but the truth is, plants can recover from this shock if the temperatures are manageable and the damage is not severe.

First, you must check the way that the way that plant has changed, and then aim to tackle different measures and to recover them. This article explains the signs of cold damage and how to save your plants.

Can Plants Recover from Direct Chilling Injury?

💥 Quick Answer

Yes, plants can recover from frost shock if they take safety measures early. When the temperatures drop, and you notice a change in your plants, water them immediately. If you have potted outdoor plants, bring them indoors and keep them in a warm corner.


Often, frost damage happens when temperatures reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit and continue dropping, this is when the plant becomes vulnerable, as the cold temperatures cause frost to form on the ground.

The frost and the cold weather produce cold air, which hits the plant’s leaves. Some frost from condensed air from the atmosphere also lands on the plant’s leaves, covering their stomata. What happens is that leaves contain water inside, which keeps their rigidity, and slowly, this water starts freezing due to the cold temperatures. This leads to damaging the leaf cells, causing them to become stressed regarding the new condition they are subjected it.

A light freeze can kill small and vulnerable plants, but the big ones suffer short-term effects. When you notice the signs of frost shock, you should quickly save the plants before they suffer irreversible frost damage.

How To Be Sure if Your Plant Has Been Cold-shocked?

If your plant has been cold-shocked, you will know it through the discolored leaves, or the wilt and droop of the leaves. In addition, you will also see the foliage becoming mushy and black in color, and slowly but surely, the roots will begin to loose the root mass.

When your plants get hit by the freezing weather, their leaves change colors from green to yellow or red, even some plants will turn white. The leaves also wilt, curl, and droop, and the plant becomes mushy. Overall, these signs will direct you and show you that your plant has been going through difficulties and that the stress has to be managed.

Generally, plants can survive five hours of temperatures below 28 degrees Fahrenheit, but when it is below that, they will become more vulnerable. However, other factors like the plant size, type, and age can affect the timing. For instance, seedlings and delicate young plants can succumb to very low temperatures within a shorter time.

– Discolored Leaves

A sign that your plant leaves are dying due to frost is discoloring, and this would start to show as one of the primary signs. Most plants have green leaves, and their colors will change to yellow or red when exposed to freezing weather. It may even become worse, as the foliage could also have white spots or change its color entirely.

The leaf’s yellow, red, or white spots show on the areas affected by the cold, as the veins in the plant start to become stressed due to the temperature drop. Moreover, you would have a sign of the plant showing you that it is prone to die, even though other leaves would start to turn brown due to dehydration and low humidity levels.

As the cold season continues, the foliage eventually become yellow or red and drop. The plant cannot photosynthesize due to a lack of chlorophyll and that is why it begins to degenerate. It also becomes susceptible to bacterial infections and other diseases that can cause death.

– The Leaves Wilt or Droop

When cellular damage occurs in the plant leaves, they wilt and curl. The wilting happens due to a lack of water which leads to a loss of rigidity in the foliage; the key reason here is due to how dehydrated cells collapse, hence wilting. However, note that wilting can also be due to lack of light, but if it happens during the cold season, frost shock is a bigger culprit.

The lost rigidity also causes the leaves to curl on the edges and inwards. The curling happens to protect the vulnerable underside of the leaf because a waxy cuticle protects the upper part. It slows down water loss which helps the plant survive for longer, and after the frost.

Leaf drooping is changing the leave’s position on the plant to protect the cell membrane, which helps with photosynthesis. These cell membranes can easily suffer natural damage if exposed to dropping in temperature.

– Mushy or Black Colored Foliage

Another sign to know your plants are suffering from too much cold is mushy and black foliage, as the plant is now exposed to a shock and this would be its response. This is severe damage to the plant, and you can hardly save such trees. However, if you notice the mushiness on a few branches or leaves, you can cut those off and cover the tree.

Black leaves and branches are completely dead and cannot come back to life. Besides being useless to the tree, these dead foliage and branches expose it to diseases and fungal infections, which can affect the healthy parts.

– Stunted Growth

Although plants go into a dormant season during winter when they stop growing, you should keep an eye on them. They should have slow growth during the freezing season but not stop growing ultimately, as they are in a shocked state and trying to cope with the new conditions they are subjected to.

If no tiny leaves are produced, ensure you take your potted plant indoors. By doing so, you would start to see how the plant would protect itself from severe damage which could leave them dead.

– Loose Root Mass

A loose root mass is a sign of frozen roots, and the damage is irreversible in most cases. It happens during a hard freeze when the moisture in root cells freezes. This causes them to expand and rupture, meaning the roots cannot transport minerals and nutrients to the rest of the plant.

How To Save Cold-Damaged Plants?

To save cold-damaged plants, you must first begin watering them, and then if in pots, bring them inside. Then you must prune them, and make sure that you wouldn’t fertilize the plant. Lastly, you should try to trim out the dead roots of the plant.

Knowing how to save plants from cold is the first step to making your trees survive the winter. The first thing to do to the affected plant is to water it, and Then, move the plant indoors or to a warmer corner, and leave the dead branches alone.

– Water The Plant

The first thing to do to save cold shocked plants is to water them. When the plant freezes, it sucks a lot of moisture from the leaves, which leads to dehydration. Dehydration causes the leaves to dry, change color and stop photosynthesizing; hence, try to water them slowly but surely, and don’t aim to overwater them, because remember how the plant is getting out of its shock now.

Watering plants impacted by the cold rehydrates them. When the soil is wet, the roots can absorb nutrients and transport them to other plant parts. The leaves regain their rigidity and can continue to photosynthesize. This will help your plant survive the cold.

– Bring Potted Plants Indoors

If your outdoor potted plants are suffering in the cold, bring them into the house to prevent cold shock. You should then place them in a warmer corner or a warmer room. However, don’t expose the plants to too much heat from the heater because this can kill the leaves, so try to regulate the temperature it was in.

You can also place the plants near a window that receives sunlight. However, put them farther from the glass. Leaving the leaves to touch the cold glass could cause them to shock again, killing them.

Moreover, you may also try to check your indoor plants to see if they suffer frost damage symptoms. If you notice any signs, you can keep all the plants together in a warmer space to help them insulate each other.

– Prune the Dead Leaves First

Pruning dead leaves when your plant goes through frost shock is one of the most tempting things to do, but don’t do it. Although these leaves can attract fungal infections, you should cut them later.

Removing the affected leaves and branches causes more shock to the plant. It also leaves open “wounds,” which can be an entry of fungal infections, and this would be a different issue, which is why you should cut them out to regulate proper growth. Moreover, plants are more susceptible to infections during the cold season, which can cause death.

Now, what you should do is wait until the warm weather returns, and new leaves start growing. You will quickly identify the dead tissues during this time and prune them. However, prune rotten leaves and branches in soft plants to prevent the rot from spreading.

– Do Not Fertilize for A While

As much as you would like your plant to produce new buds and branches soon, do not fertilize it. Fertilizing introduces nutrients to the plant, promoting growth. Although growth is good, the plant does not need it now. It needs to concentrate on healing first.

Since the plant is not growing then, it will use the energy to keep the other parts, like the leaves, roots, and stems should also be intact. Once the cold season ends and the frozen plant recovers, you can resume fertilization.

– Trim The Dead Roots

Although a loose root mass signifies hard-to-reverse damage to the plant, some can be saved. If you notice that your tree has some live roots it can survive on, repot it in a new container. Trim the dead roots when repotting, and ensure you use fresh soil. Repotting cause stress to the plant, but it can recover with time.

Will One Night of Frost Kill The Plants?

Yes, one night frost can kill the plant because death by frost depends on the duration your plants are exposed to frost, the type of plants you have, and the frost level. If the frost was exposed for long hours it could kill them as the temperature drop was low.

Also, plants exposed to frost in winter are likely to survive because they are already used to the freezing weather. However, if the freezing appears in spring, it can cause significant damage to the plants that are already exposed to warmer temperatures.

What if I left my house plant outside in the cold? Will it die? Leaving your indoor plants outside in the cold for long hours can lead to frost damage. It mostly happens to tiny and cold, vulnerable plants. The freezing weather and frost cause the water in the leaf cells to freeze, damaging them. The cold can also cause freezing in the root cells, which swell and burst.

Since you probably are wondering, “what should I do if I left my indoor plants outside,” try this; If you notice signs of frost shock, return your plants indoors, and place them in a warmer room. Water them if the soil is dry, and keep it in a higher temperature range; you can, in this case, place a warm light.

How Long Will It Take for My Plants to Heal from Cold Shock?

The period of time to heal from the damage depends on the extent it has been left and the plant type, as some plants take one to two weeks, to months. Also, note that some plants, like tropical plants, will always bear the scars of frost damage.

For example, Monstera cold shock signs do not disappear until the plant bears other leaves. However, if small parts of the leaves turn brown, you can trim the tips. The missing part will tamper with the plant’s aesthetics, but new leaves will grow soon to replace those.

It is inadvisable to quicken the healing process of your plants. For example, do not pour any fertilizer to make the plant grow. While new growth is essential, it causes stress to the plant and can slow its healing.


While you do everything to keep your plant alive, do not fertilize or prune it until it heals from the shock. From this article, you will find that:

  • Plants can heal from frost damage if they don’t suffer severe damage. You should also water the tree immediately to keep it alive.
  • Plants can recover from the shock caused by too much cold. Once you notice any signs of frost damage like drooping, curling or yellow leaves, mushy parts of the plant and loose roots, move the plant indoors.
  • During the healing process, ensure you water the plant and keep it in a warmer place. Do not fertilize or prune it until the cold season ends.
  • You can bring your outdoor potted plants into the house to protect them from cold effects.
  • Also, avoid fertilizing it, and once you notice signs of frost shock like wilting, discoloring of the leaves, mushiness, and lose root balls, water the plants and place them in a warm corner.

If you have noticed any signs of frost damage on your plant, save it immediately before the damage is too much.

5/5 - (20 votes)