CO-Horts Blog

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What the Hail!? Plants that Stood Up to the Ice Bombs

Posted by: Tony Koski, Professor and Extension Turfgrass Specialist, CSU

Golfball and baseball-sized hail
Unfortunately, I don’t live in the idyllic area where Darrin lives…where unicorns and lemonade waterfalls co-exist together.  No, I live in northern Colorado—Wellington to be exact—and hailstorms are frequent.   And on August 3, parts of northern Colorado suffered from one of the worst hailstorms in recent history.  Pea-sized hail is laughable…the hail we got was baseball-sized (and a lot of golfball-size).  This storm paved a swath of destruction from Wellington to Windsor, dropping hail and copious amounts of rain in a short time. 
When life gives you hail,
you collect it for show and tell.

While Windsor had to get out the snowplows to clear the streets, the hail in Wellington wasn’t as plentiful, but much larger.  And it got me thinking as I cleaned up my garden…are there plants that do better than others when pelted with these ice balls?  According to Wikipedia, the size of the hailstone determines the rate of speed at which it hits the earth.  A hailstone less than ½” will strike ground around 20 mph.  If you increase the size to 3”, the speed increases to 110 mph.  That means my baseball-sized hail ricocheted to the ground faster than Wyoming drivers race down I-25. 

Since Alison and I both had extensive damage to our gardens (we are seeking donations of any garden produce), here’s the list of plants that fared well and those that are now compost:

Plants that survived the hail
  • Ornamental grasses (Janey—note for your thesis!)
  • Hawthorn with hail damage;
    a little light pruning is all that's necessary
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Groundcover thyme
  • Most small-leafed trees (honeylocust, linden, maples and crabapples/apples)
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Cosmos
  • Lilacs
  • Pines (they lost a few needles, but look good)
  • Spruce (tips were pruned, but overall fared well)
  • Junipers (shocking, I know)
  • The sandcherry just laughed at the hail.
  • Lamb’s ear
  • Vines trellised to fences/structures (honeysuckle, silver lace vine)
  • Cholla cactus
  • Opuntia cactus
  • Coneflower
  • Scabiosa
  • Yarrow
  • Dogwood
  • Sandcherry
  • Agastache
  • Turfgrass (another reason to have turf!)

The turf says, "Hail?  What hail?"
Plants that bit the dust
Zucchini...I think.  Pretty sure.  Hard to tell.
  • Squash, cucumbers and other cucurbits
  • Eggplant
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Dill
  • Beets (but may recover, since edible part grows below ground)
  • Rhubarb
  • Hops
  • Russian sage
  • Upright sedums
  • Cleome
  • Zinnias
  • Coreopsis (tickseed)
  • Fleshy-leaved sedums are a hail favorite
  • Iris
  • Daylilies
  • Peonies
  • Big-leaf trees (catalpa)
  • Heuchera (coralbells)
  • Hosta
  • Blue-mist spirea
  • Winecups
  • Jupiter’s beard
  • Shasta daisy

Sniff...there goes the beer :(
Hops vines totally denuded of leaves.

Darrin’s blog covered how to handle hail-damaged plants well, so I won’t repeat that.  And we’d love to hear from you about the plants in your garden that have prevailed after hail…anything we missed? 

Sungold cherry tomato = no likey hail
The Russian sage was in full bloom.
Now it's a hot mess.
Onward and upward to greener pastures!
Green space downtown Toronto, Canada.
These cows don't make cowpies!


  1. Thanks Tony for giving me yet a reason to stick with my research project... Ornamental grasses rule! So sad to see your garden; but a great list (and reminder) when planning for next year in this hail-prone region.

  2. Sad to see those sensitive leaves become shredded, pock marked or ripped by hail. Hail damage can really severely decimate the harvest. There is even hail damage to trees, which varies in severity depending upon the type of tree and the force and size of hail that falls. After a hard hail, you really need to know how to care for hail damaged plants and return them to their natural beauty.