Wednesday, January 27th, I am going to be cutting back all the Crotons that had severe leaf drop from the recent cold weather. My guess is that there will be several hundred cuttings. I don't want them. Do you?
I know how tempting it is to pick up a pair of pruners and whack everything back but please, please resist that temptation. Cutting too soon will spur those puppies to put all their remaining energy into new growth and another cold spell will TOTALLY kill those plants instead of just dropping those leaves. We took a walking tour of the Florida Botanical Gardens (FBG) with our horticulturist on Thursday looking at the extensive damage in our gardens. His advice is this: all those dead leaves make nice mulch and put nutrients in the soil so leave them be. If they are on the branches and not falling off they will protect the plant from further frost damage if we have any. Look at next week's forecast and we are expecting cooler temps again tho not as bad. So winter is just not over yet as much as we would like it to be. The coldest weather seems to coincide with a full moon. We will be having another one at the end of January. So please look at the lunar calendar for Feb. and then back date it about 10 days which all about as much as we can reliably forecast at the moment. If they are not forcasting another cold spell during that period then it will be safe to prune around mid-Feb. Otherwise, we will need to wait until March and after the Feb. full moon. Our FBG croton collection seemed to have survived the cold spell rather well until the weather warmed up and we lost all our leaves. That, he said was pretty typical. The plants are pretty dormant in the cold and don't realize they have been hit until the warm weather wakes them up so they loose their leaves a week or more later which is what ours did as the plants assess the damage. The big thing to worry about right now is the palms. The crown shaft is very susceptible to rot and fungus so drench it good with liquid copper. Don't worry about all those brown branches especially if they have any bit of green on them as the palms will pull the nutrients out.
Also, because it takes a while for all the cold damage to show up, if you prune before you start new growth you may cut back too much or you may not cut back enough and will just have to prune again. You should just be pruning off the dead stuff so that won't grow anyway.
Wait, Wait, Wait. That is what we are doing, it is hard but your yard will thank you come March.