If you are new to Florida, it may surprise you to hear about protecting your plants from cold weather and frost. In fact, it is hard to imagine when it is a week before Christmas and you are on the beach.
However, even here in the Tampa and Sarasota area, we can experience below freezing temperatures in January and February. Although the temperatures give way to warmer numbers during the day, the nights can be quite cold.
Unfortunately, most of our trees, flowers, and bushes are cultivated for tropical and sub-tropical weather.
When those cold nights come, it is important to know how to protect them as best as possible – as well as how to help them recover if they do suffer frost damage.
Protecting from Frost
There are three basic ways to protect your warm-weather plants from sub-freezing temperatures.
When you don’t have to worry about frost except for a few days per year, it is unlikely that you would situate your plants in such way to protect them from the infrequent event.
Still, if you are starting over, or have some room to get creative, we recommend that you place most of the plants on the south or east side of your homes. That is because most of our cold wind and weather comes from the northwest or west, and your home makes a great barrier against the coldest gusts.
You can also plant hardy barrier hedges to protect plants, or even put up a small fence to block any weather.
One of the most common ways to protect plants is to cover them with blankets to keep them warm.
Many homeowners make the mistake of using either bed sheets, which are too thin; or plastic, which will actually hold the cold in.
The very best material to cover your plants and trees is frost cloth, which can usually be found at home improvement stores. It is lightweight and keep plants toasty warm.
However, in the absence of frost cloth, blankets or quilts are your next best choice.
Completely cover the plants, letting the blankets go all the way to the ground, and anchor if possible. You can also gather the fronds of small palms, tie them together, and cover completely with the blanket.
Watering the Soil:
It may seem counter-intuitive to water the ground before a freeze or frost, but it is actually a great proactive measure.
Water the soil around your plants and trees by late morning when a frost is expected, and the daytime sunlight will warm up the soil around the plants roots.
The warm, wet soil will help to keep the plants roots warm overnight and reduce the chance of shock.
If Your Plants Get Frostbit
Because our plants are so used to being warm, sometimes there is no way to prepare them completely for the cold shock.
Should your plants show stress and begin dying off from a few cold nights, here are a couple of tips to mitigate the damage and allow most of them to survive for a few more weeks when the warmth returns.