Tips to Reduce Winter Damage to Plants

Bennett Joffrion  |  12/14/2009 9:59:34 PM

We are able to grow a lot of variety plants that do well in our area. Many tropical and sub-tropical plants can be used effectively in our landscape. What we also need to be aware of is that many of these plants must be protected or replaced when temperatures fall low enough to cause damage or death.

Winter damage is caused not only by low temperatures but also by drying winds that lead to desiccation of plant tissue. As of this writing, we have had an abundance of rainfall in the area. With that in mind, here are some steps that can be taken to minimize damage to landscape plants in winter:

  • Water -- We have been getting plenty of rain. Thoroughly watering landscape plants before a freeze may reduce damage from plants drying out from strong dry winds.

  • Move inside -- Move all tender plants in containers and hanging baskets into a building where temperatures will not freeze. If plants are kept inside for extended periods, be sure they receive as much light as possible.

  • Group together -- If the above option is not possible, try to group the containers together in a protected area and cover with plastic. Remove plastic when temperatures warm up.

  • Mulch -- For plants growing in the ground, mulches can help. Use a loose, dry material such as pine straw or leaves. Mulches are best used to protect below ground parts, crowns or to completely cover low-growing plants to a depth of at least 4 inches. If you use a mulch as a complete-type cover, leave it on no more than 3-4 days.

  • Covers -- For small plants, they can be protected by covering them with various sized cardboard or styrofoam boxes.

    • Larger plants can be protected by creating a simple structure and covering it with sheets, blankets, tarps, or plastic. Be sure the structure holds the covering off the foliage.
    • The cover should extend to the ground and sealed with soil or other heavy objects.
    • Plastic covers should be vented or removed when temperatures reach above freezing for several hours
       
  •  Pruning -- Some large plants may be pruned back to make its size more practical to cover. Hibiscus is a good example of this.

  • Trunk Wraps – For trees too large to cover, such as large citrus trees, you may try to at least wrap the trunk with an insulating material such as foam rubber, pipe wrap or blankets. The tops may die depending on the temperature, but you may be able to save the tree from the surviving trunk.

The severity of the damage will depend on several factors such as temperature duration of cold and health of plant prior to freezes. 

Question and Answer

Question:
When is the best time to prune and plant shade trees?

Answer:
Now.

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