Brrrrrr! It’s cold out there! And while we’re feeling the chill, so our are plants. We hate seeing damage from frost, not to mention the risk of losing a plant to the frost damage. Thankfully, there are some tried and true ways to keep vulnerable plants safe from damage:

Know the Temp

While the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit, the general rule of thumb is to cover plants anytime the temperature dips below 40 degrees. This is because some plants do not tolerate the cold well at all and gardeners could see damage at even 37 degrees. Be sure to check the forecast and have plenty of coverings on hand.

Know Your Plants

Not all plants need to be covered. Most native trees, shrubs, and cacti can handle the chilly temperatures. But non-native such as ficus, bougainvillea, lantana, hibiscus, yellow bells, succulents, and any tropical plants. Be sure to pay attention to any young or freshly pruned plants that may be susceptible to the cold and treat them the same as the more fragile variety.

Know How to Cover

Almost as important as it is to cover your plants, is what you cover with and when. First, start by watering plants early in the day. The moisture in the soil will help to retain heat during the evening hours. Next, use frost cloth, or a breathable fabric. Cover late in the day when the soil is the warmest so that the heat is trapped. Lastly, be sure that the cover does not touch the plant, but that it does touch the ground. This can be achieved by making a small tent over the shrub with sticks or even a PVC pipe frame.

Know How Cold

These tips are great for lighter freezes. If the temperatures are dipping below 32 degrees, you’ll need a slightly different plant. For hard freezes, bring as many plants indoors or under the cover of a patio. A fan can be used under the patio to keep frost from settling on the plants. For other plants and shrubs, add a layer of plastic over the frost cloth to prevent further damage. Be sure that the plastic does not touch the plants and that it extends to the ground just like the frost cloth. Lastly, be sure to remove the plastic and cloth once temperatures are above freezing.

Know When to Trim

If your plants do get frost damage, do not trim it away! That dead layer of vegetation will actually be beneficial in protecting the plant in additional freezes. Be sure to cover when it freezes, and it can be trimmed in late spring when the threat of frost is past.

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