Frost-touched tropicals

(Question)

My large bougainvillea, rubber plant and ficus benjamina were put outside and then we had one night of light frost! Some of the leaves on the bougainvillea and ficus are brown now and the ficus has dropped some leaves. Are these plants lost? What can I do?

(Answer)

Don’t despair! All may not be lost … and there is a good chance that all 3 types of plants will recover. The first step is to wait a few days, then see how bad the damage really is.

Bougainvillea: If the leaves drop and the tips of the vines seem dead, you will need to cut the vine back to healthier material (even  quite a hard pruning if necessary). If the roots are still alive, the plant will regrow .. and since it was just one night of light frost, the roots are probably fine.

Rubber plant: Similarly, it is possible to cut this plant back and have new growth appear. You might consider taking cuttings from the healthier stalks and potting them up to provide new plants in case the original plant does not come back strongly.

Ficus benjamina: If there are obviously completely dead branches, you should prune them off. But if the branches seem well and it’s just a matter of the leaves browning and dropping off, be patient … the tree may very well leaf out again in 6 weeks or so.