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Cold weather protection for plants

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

It doesn't freeze often in central Texas, but we'll help you ensure that your plants are ready when it does.

We don't get all that many hard freezes here in central Texas, but it only takes one to do serious damage to unprotected plants. In this post, we'll offer some tips for ensuring that your plants have the best chance of weathering the cold with ease.

Prepare early

Historically, the average first frost date in central Texas occurs anytime from late October to early December. That's why we recommend that customers prepare early for the possibility of a sudden frost as we head into the winter season. By the end of fall, you'll want to have space cleared out for sheltering sensitive plants in a wind-protected porch or shed, for instance. You'll also want to have several frost blankets handy for covering in-ground plants (more on that in a moment). We frequently sell out of such products anytime a major weather event is predicted--so it can be risky to wait till midwinter to shop for supplies. Meanwhile, if you're contemplating adding a greenhouse to your garden space, the fall is a wonderful time to knock that project out.

Relocate container plants

Potted plants and hanging baskets are more susceptible to temperature changes than in-ground plants because of the soil's increased exposure to wind. For this reason, when the temperatures begin to drop, it's a good idea to relocate container plants to more favorable places. Avoid leaving potted plants sitting in elevated positions or in direct contact with stone and concrete surfaces (common for many porches and garages), as these tend to conduct heat away from the soil. Instead, place them on the ground, insulating them with a layer of cardboard or wood if necessary, in wind-sheltered areas that still receive adequate sunlight. And when a hard freeze is in the forecast, you'll want to temporarily move your most sensitive plants indoors--or at least to a wind-protected porch or shed.

Water well in advance of anticipated freezes

Many plants enter a dormant state in the winter, during which they grow less noticeably. But they still need plenty of water--especially in the face of an impending freeze. Good access to water strengthens root systems against the stresses of the cold, but timing is critical: You don't want moisture around your plants when the temperatures begin to drop below freezing. So pay attention to the forecast and gently water in-ground plants at the soil base at least 24-48 hours in advance of anticipated below-freezing conditions. Minimize water contact with leaves and branches, since these may have difficulty drying in colder temperatures.

Deploy frost blankets

In-ground plants that can't be relocated can still be protected from the worst freezes with frost blankets, which are designed to help trap escaping surface heat. Commercially prepared frost blankets are lined with a layer of cloth and then a layer of waterproof plastic. Many customers use basic plastic bags or plastic sheets to cover their plants, and this is a big mistake because condensation that forms on the inside of the plastic will freeze against the leaves of your plants--ironically increasing the chances of your plants becoming damaged. Always make sure your plants are covered by cloth and then plastic! You want to be sure the covering extends, if possible, all the way to the ground. Use clothes pins and bricks or stones to secure them in place. When temperatures rise above freezing, you'll want to pull the covers back to allow the plants access to sunlight--even if it's only for a few hours. Then cover them again anytime temperatures are expected to drop below freezing. During the coldest weeks of winter, this can turn into a bit of a "winter dance" you'll have to do several times--but it's worth it! In the spring, well-protected plants will be able to use their energy producing new growth instead of recovering from cold-weather stress.

Don't panic

Keep in mind that even if you take all the proper precautions, certain cold-weather impacts are inevitable. A touch of frost, for instance, will usually "burn" a plant's flowers, and many of them may not bloom again until the spring. But many customers make the mistake of rooting up frost-burnt plants, assuming they were killed in the winter storm. The fact is that many plants, particularly those native to Texas, are well adapted to survive seasonal freezes. Whether a freeze is sufficient to kill a plant really depends on a number of factors that aren't easily observed until the coming spring. So it's always best to continue nurturing your plants on the assumption that they are dormant rather than dead--and then wait and see what happens in the warmer months ahead. You may be surprised how many of those plants put forth new shoots and blossoms with just a little extra TLC.

As usual, our experts are standing by for advice. Call or stop by anytime, and we'll be happy to help you select the best products and take the right actions to keep your plants protected this winter season.


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