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Protect Your Plants from Frost During a Cold Snap

The Family Handyman logo The Family Handyman 9/19/2019 Noelle Johnson
a close up of a flower © Karyn Norman/Birds and Blooms

For those of us who live in areas that experience relatively mild winters—we are fortunate to be able to grow semi-tropical and/or tropical plants such as Bougainvillea, Lantana and Yellow Bells outdoors.

However, those same frost-tender plants whose colorful blooms we enjoy during the warm months, often need extra protection when cold snaps hit in winter.

When temperatures dip between 32 and 24 degrees F, damage to the foliage and sometimes even to the roots can occur.

How to Protect Plants From Frost

So what can you do to help protect your frost-tender plants? Cover them during the cold hours of night. During the day, the soil absorbs the heat from the sun. By covering plants in the evening, the covering captures the heat the the soil re-radiates out into the night.

a close up of a piece of paper: If you have a favorite perennial you feel needs a little protection from the harsh winter, try wrapping the plant in burlap. Wrap the material around the plant a couple times, being careful to avoid breakage. Once the plant is covered, a loop or two of twine will hold everything in place.

Want more hardy plants in your yard? These hardy plants grow well in a boulevard. © Seregam/Shutterstock If you have a favorite perennial you feel needs a little protection from the harsh winter, try wrapping the plant in burlap. Wrap the material around the plant a couple times, being careful to avoid breakage. Once the plant is covered, a loop or two of twine will hold everything in place. Want more hardy plants in your yard? These hardy plants grow well in a boulevard.  

How to Protect Plants from Frost: What Should You Cover Plants With?

You may be wondering what type of coverings to use for your frost-tender plants.

Well, you can do as I do and raid your linen closet for old towels, sheets and even blankets. Of course, burlap and frost cloth purchased from your local nursery work great as well. You can find frost protection cloth on Amazon.

How to Protect Plants from Frost: When Should You Cover Plants?

Cover your plants at night and remove them during the day when the temperatures rise above 32 degrees F, so that the soil can warm up again.

a statue of a person in a blue chair © via amazon.com  

How to Protect Plants from Frost: Other Helpful Tips

Other tips that can help in addition to covering your frost-tender plants is to water your plants before freezing temperatures. This is because water releases heat during the night. You can also string Christmas lights around plants, which provide some heat. A single 100-watt bulb placed underneath the covering also adds extra protection, but take care that the bulb doesn't touch the covering.

Succulents like some columnar cacti are susceptible to cold snaps. The tips of these cacti are where frost-damage is usually seen. You can easily protect them by putting styrofoam cups on top of each tip, which offers protection from frost damage. If you've got fruit trees, try these tips to protect fruit tress from frost.

What Not to Use to Protect Plants from Frost

One type covering the DOES NOT offer frost protection when in contact with the foliage of plants is plastic…

The areas where plastic touches the plant will suffer frost damage. So in this case, the plastic does more harm then good.

By following these tips for protection your frost-tender plants from frost damage, you will soon be enjoying their colorful blooms once spring arrives. It's a good idea to follow these 20 tips on things to do in fall to prevent a catastrophe later.

So, keep an eye out for your local weather forecast and get your plant coverings ready when temperatures are forecast to dip to 32 degrees F and below.  Which reminds me that cold weather is headed my way, so I had better cover my Lantana.

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