Originally posted 12/14/2012 and p.s. I always have Moonflower seed if you have an interest. See note at end of post.
Covered sago palm during first freeze in North Texas – 2012
‘Tis the season to preserve and protect your plants! Even those of us who live in areas of mild winters should take heed and protect our tender perennials and otherwise delicate outdoor plantings when the cold winds blow our way. Living on the cusp of Zones 7b & 8a I have been fortunate to salvage a few of my prized plants during frost and freeze snaps without actually bringing them indoors. Of course, in North Texas we may have freezing temps one day and highs in the 70’s the next. Thus, if I brought plants inside every time there was a chance of a frost or freeze, I’d be carting them back and forth more times than I care to do! However, if you reside in an area that is steadily cold in the winter, I would indeed suggest you bring your tender perennials inside, if you can, or invest in a semi-permanent protective garden row cover to place over your prized possessions. As the days begin to warm in the spring, you may only need to remove the covers from your plants every now and then. Protecting plants from cold is actually very easy and economical. Truly, the hard part is staying ahead of the weather. This shouldn’t be too difficult in consistently cold areas but may be difficult in fluctuating temperate areas such as where I live. On sunny days after a frost if I accidentally leave a plant covered, especially with transparent plastic, it could actually burn.
Below are a few suggestions on how to protect your plants during sporadic hard frosts and freezes:
- First of all, consider planting or placing your semi-tropicals and tender perennials on the south side of your home where they will receive barrier protection from the north winds, or,
- Plant them in semi-enclosed areas of your landscape such as in corners or enclaves.
- Before the first frost, mulch around and over your tender plantings heavily. Add more mulch to the plants prior to the first freeze. If your plants are in large pots that can’t be easily brought indoors, (such as hardy palms, hardy hibiscus, etc.), this practice is especially important. Remember, you can always use fall leaves for mulch!
- If the weather has been dry, water your plants thoroughly at their base at least a day or two prior to the expected frost/freeze. This is especially important if the plants you wish to salvage are in pots, as moisture evaporates from soil more quickly in limited containers. (See the difference between periwinkles grown in the ground and those grown in a pot in the photo below.) Dry conditions are as tough on plants in the winter as are the drought conditions in the hot summer. Cold, dry winds evaporate moisture above the ground and once the freeze occurs, the plants cannot uptake frozen water crystals from below ground. Consider the act of watering your plants as a moisturizing treatment, if you will. Your plants will plump up and be better able to withstand the frigid temps if they are well hydrated. Again, water at least 24 hours prior to a freeze and try to avoid spraying the foliage.
- During consecutive freezing nights, cover your plants with garden row covers, individual plastic plant covers or simply old blankets and towels – regardless of plant location or the amount of water and mulch you have dispersed. As I mentioned earlier – be sure to remove plastics and transparent covers when the temps warm up as they will magnify the sun’s rays and inadvertently burn the very plants you are attempting to preserve.
Contrasting conditions of periwinkles in ground and in a pot after first freeze in North Texas – 2012
I’m sure if you follow the above tips, you will be very pleased when your plants “spring” back!
Until next time,
I sincerely hope every one of you has a very wonderful holiday season, no matter the holiday you chose to honor. In my tradition of gift-giving at Christmas, I’d love to share a packet of Moonflower seeds with you. Send me a comment or email and according to postage restrictions, I’ll send you a packet to sow and enjoy during your summertime, whenever it is! Your information will remain confidential.