FRIDAY FLOWERS: HELPING PLANTS SURVIVE THE COLD

It’s winter and it’s cold.
But unlike us, our plants can’t come inside for warmth…so how to give them a little help to survive winter’s cold? If you have a lot of snow cover so much the better. But if it is just plain cold, they may need and appreciate your help.

This very helpful article is from the North Carolina Agricultural Extension in Chatham County. While it is written for my area in North Carolina, in Zone 7b, it offers some very helpful and relevant information on protecting plants anywhere. Take a look:

“When Is The Damage Most Likely to Occur?”

Many factors impact whether or not a specific plant is damaged by cold temperatures, including snow cover. Extremely cold temperatures often follow a winter storm. If the storm left behind a blanket of snow, plants are less likely to be damaged – especially low growing plants, bulbs, and dormant perennials covered by snow.

Time of the year also makes a difference. When extreme cold occurs in the early part of winter (Jan – Feb), most landscape trees and shrubs, fruit trees, and berry plants are fully dormant and unlikely to be damaged.

Later in the season (March – April), many plant parts are more susceptible to temperatures below freezing, especially flower buds. Late freezes are particularly damaging if they are preceded by a warm spell.

Plants growing in containers are exposed to colder temperatures than those rooted in the ground. Containers that can be moved should be brought into a garage or shed, or, at a minimum, pushed up against the eaves of the house. Containers too large or heavy to move can be completely surrounded and covered with several layers of insulating materials.

Another option is to build a frame around the plant and completely cover the frame with double layers of plastic or frost protection cloth, then place a heat source underneath. Ensure the frame’s covering reaches all the way to the ground and is well secured.

Old-fashion incandescent bulbs or Christmas lights are often used as the heat source, but they have to be the older, less energy efficient types to be effective. Newer LED bulbs give off little heat – that’s part of what makes them so energy efficient.

A local gardener shared that she uses a slow cooker filled with water as a heat source to keep her covered plants just above freezing. No matter what you use, take extreme care to prevent fire and electrical malfunctions.

When spring does arrive, don’t be too quick to give up on cold damaged plants. Even if the entire top is frozen, gardenias, figs and several other woody plants will recover by sprouting from the base or roots, though it may be May or even June before new growth emerges.

 

My own hydrangeas suffered real damage two years in a row when we had prolonged cold spells here (below 20° for several nights running.) So last year I bought the
All-Purpose Garden Fabric from Gardeners Supply

No, not a really pretty sight! but it works. I cover my tender hydrangeas and scabiosa whenever the temperature will be below about 25°

What really sold me on it was seeing it used extensively in Savannah and Charleston on window boxes. Everyone there seemed to know about it! At $9.95 it’s a bargain: you can cut it into any size and it’s easy to store.

If you want to quickly find out your area’s Hardiness Zone, HERE is a good site.

We’re mid-way through winter, but often it’s the end of the season that can be the most dangerous. Just when you think the coast is clear…you get another frost.

Let us know of any tricks and tips you have for keeping your plants healthy in the cold!

 

10 Comments

Comments

  1. I agree it is the end of the season that is most dangerous. We’ve had some cold, but lots of mild weather too, so this year could be especially tricky.
    Marian St.Clair recently posted…Celebrating DemocracyMy Profile

    • Well, it wasn’t all that cold last night, after all, but everybody was wrapped up tight! I am determined to have those scabiosa make it!!!!!

  2. We have had two weeks of frosts every night, last year we had none at all! Some of them have been quite hard, down to -7 (19F) two nights. I covered our tender plants and our lime and lemon trees in the white winter protection, hopefully they will be ok, I have checked on them and they look a little battered but I hope nothing too serious.
    Our French Oasis recently posted…Cabbage & Co; Our Winter HeroesMy Profile

    • Susan: Yes, it’s crazy with the weather changes! All my plants made it last night just fine and now just one more night this week below freezing. Thank goodness the days here are lovely and sunny, and oh, how I can’t wait for spring!

  3. Looking at the zone map, it seems seriously outdated! (Global warning?) It’s data goes back to 1976 with the average low temps. The last time I saw the posted low in our area (Hudson Valley, New York) was the year we moved up from the city–1987. I thought our thermometer had broken!
    Libby–this is the painter of the landscape in your Dining Room! Hope you are still enjoying it. We are traveling next month to check re-location sites from Chapel Hill (do you love it there?) to Jacksonville, so your gardening news is of interest! I would love to have a hydrangea live through the winter.

    • Kari: What a nice surprise!!! Well, actually, that map was updated in 2016 and we are def. in zone 7b (almost 8a!) I checked several other sites and then a local plant seller’s map and same thing. So, I think it is correct, but will keep checking!!!

      Yes, we love the painting and get SO many compliments and questions about it. We love Chapel Hill area, so you should def. check it out. Perfect weather for us, but such different gardening than Hudson Valley!! Stay in touch, and so glad you follow here!
      Libby Wilkie recently posted…FRIDAY FLOWERS: HELPING PLANTS SURVIVE THE COLDMy Profile

  4. THE LEMON TREES Are close to the house so they are OKAY but we have had some really cold morning this PAST week.I hope most will survive!!
    LA CONTESSA recently posted…BALLERINA~MOM~BLOGGERMy Profile

  5. Hello Libby, wow! It’s nice idea to keep safe plants in winter season. In the night temperature goes down as compared to day. In this case these tips are very helpful to keep safe plants in this cold season. Thank you so much for sharing!

  6. Great article, Libby. Your efforts are deeply appreciated by all garden lovers 🙂 Tell me though, what is the garden fabric you mention using during winter made of? Is it some kind of synthetic textile or pure nylon?

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