Hurricane-damaged plants should be cared for as soon as possible after the storm. Small trees and shrubs, particularly those uprooted or damaged, should be securely staked in their original growing positions. Make every effort to protect the exposed root system and prevent it from drying out. Cover exposed roots with soil, moist burlap sacks, or moist sphagnum moss. Remove damaged roots so the tree can be reset at ground level.

Once the tree is staked back into position, use soil to fill in around the root area. Firm the soil around roots to eliminate air pockets and provide support. Only replace soil that has been washed or worked away from the roots. Water twice a week. Until they become re-established, fertilizer will be of no major benefit and may cause possible injury to new tender feeder roots.

Many trees and shrubs may have been tossed back and forth creating a hollowing of the soil around the major support roots. Where this has occurred, add soil and water to eliminate air pockets around the roots.

Broken branches should be sawed or pruned from trees and shrubs. Always make clean, even cuts and remove only those that are damaged. Where possible, cut branches back to major limbs or the main trunk, cutting just outside of the branch collar. Large branches that are too heavy to hold while cutting require three separate cuts to prevent bark stripping. First cut on the lower side of the branch about 15” away from the trunk and ? of the way through the branch. Second cut downward from top of the branch about 17” to 18” from the main trunk to cause the limb to split clearly between the two cuts without tearing bark on the trunk. The remaining stub is easily supported with one hand while you cut it from the tree.

Where bark injury has occurred, cut away ragged edges to make a clean, smooth wound. It is not necessary to paint the wound with a wound dressing.

In cases where all branches have been destroyed, it may be wise to remove the entire tree especially trees such as pine, which do not normally regain their natural form. Damaged trees already declining due to insects or disease should be removed. Trees that have been defoliated by high winds should be saved, as most will resume growth.

Lawn grasses should be freed of fallen leaves, silt, mud and debris, which will cause smothering. Grasses and plants that have been under water should resume their growth once the water is drained away. Standing water may have injured some moisture-sensitive shrubs.

For plants that have been exposed to saltwater, irrigate them with freshwater as soon as possible. Apply more water, and water frequently. Waiting for symptoms of salt damage to appear could result in serious damage to your plants.

For more information go to:

Caring for Hurricane-Damaged Home Landscape Plants. Robert J. Black. Environmental Horticulture Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: February 2000.

Hurricane Elena 2005