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!