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Surviving frost damage in the southern garden

 

It’s official, while the rest of the country has been suffering with cold weather for weeks, winter has finally arrived here in sunny Florida. The weatherman tells us there is a cold front on the way with temperatures dipping into the low 30’s. The first thing I thought of when I heard the forecast was I had better start covering my landscape plants and bringing in the potted ones.

 

winter garden

 

Chances are, if you cover your plants as I do, you will notice that some of your plants will still sustain frost damage. There is no getting around, it especially if the air temperature reaches below 28 degrees. Another factor is how the plants are covered. If you lay a blanket or tarp over the entire plant and the cover is directly, touching the plant there will still be damage. It is also important to remove the cover during the day so the plant can warm up. Like most of you, I am to busy to cover and uncover 100 plants everyday during the cold snaps, so, my plants remained covered.

 

Some plants tolerate frost and cooler temperatures better than others do. The age and general health of the plant will play a factor in whether or not your plants will survive. Popular plants that usually are killed or damaged by frost include annuals, Impatiens, Marigolds, Coleus & some sub-tropical like Hibiscus, Citrus & Bougainvillea. However, do not give up too quickly. Any plant that is still alive will attempt to recover. Many of your perennial plants like Salvia & Begonias will die back but the roots can survive the winter only to re-sprout in the spring. The same applies for bulb plants like Day Lilies & Iris. Even if a plant has lost all of its woody parts, it can re-grow from the root or stem tissue. If you did not think to cover your plants in time or you have frost damage here are some tips to helping your plants survive.

 

fall leaves

 

Resist the urge… to prune that is!
With a yard full of damaged, dead looking plants the gardener’s first instinct is to prune. Don’t do it! The damaged leafs can work as an insulator for further damage and will serve as a starting point for new growth in the spring. In fact, heavy pruning can stimulate new growth that could be damaged again if, heaven forbid, we get another cold snap.

 

Hydration is key but no feeding please!
Keep your plants well watered. This may be the most important factor in saving your damaged plants. Windy days will dry up the soil and the frost on the leaf will actually pull water from the leaf causing dehydration. Water your plants but do not fertilize them until spring once they have resumed active growth.

What about my pond plants?
The same rules apply for your pond plants, no pruning or fertilizing. They will actually have a better chance of survival because the water temperature is generally warmer than the air temperature and the plants will be hydrated from the pond water.

 

Come spring when the weather warms, look for new growth & start pruning. If a plant is truly dead, don’t be too upset. That just means you have an excuse to buy new plants for your garden.

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