Damaging frost seems to hit when we are simply not prepared! It comes when we are busy with holiday festivities, school functions, working late, among many other activities. With cold weather quickly approaching, learn how to protect your plants today.
While many plants need frost protection, common frost tender plants include: Citrus, gardenia, bougainvillea, lantana, tropical hibiscus, cuphea, dwarf oleanders, many ferns and succulents.
Frost-sensitive plants living in pots can be pulled close to the house and placed under an overhang. The south side of your house is the warmest, the north side is the coldest and the west side is warmer than the east. House walls give off more heat than unheated garage walls, and fences give little protection at all. The very best spot for frost-tender plants would be under an overhang next to a large window or sliding glass door. Most of the heat lost from our homes escapes via windows. This is bad news for our heating bills, but good news for tender plants.
Frost falls almost straight down. This means that plants under a solid overhang are protected. Boston ferns hung on the edge will often be burned on the outside, but fine on the inside. The same will happen to jade plants that are not tucked in far enough. If you have no porches, putting the plants under a dense evergreen tree will often be enough.
For long-term protection, build a frame and cover it with clear plastic, making sure it does not touch the leaves. Depending on the size of the plant, tomato cages work well as frames. If the plant is particularly tender, get an extension cord and rig a light in the enclosure. Outdoor Christmas lights work great, too (the old fashioned kind, not LED). Put them on a timer so they turns on every night without fail. If your plants are frost-nipped in spite of your best intentions, don’t be in a rush to prune off the damage. Delay pruning until after threat of frost--mid to late March in our area. The damaged tops insulate the lower parts, improving your plants’ chances for a full recovery.
Finally, plants come in all shapes and sizes, and so do frost covers. Frost Protek frost covers are bags with drawstrings, ideal for the protection of hanging baskets and container plants. If your plants are in the ground, try our frost tents in several different sizes. DeWitt N-Sulate (10’ x 12’) can be easily draped over larger shrubs and small trees. We also have frost cloth by the foot (12’ wide by any length). Be sure to remove the frost blankets during daytime hours. If you prefer to use a spray, try Cloud Cover, Wilt Stop or FreezePruf to help protect your plants from frosty nights. However, keep in mind that tender succulents can be protected with frost cloth, but dislike sprays.