Cold Confusion

Coming from the Northeast, I used to understand how seasons and cold weather worked in the garden.

In the fall it got colder, leaves dropped, and most of the plants just stopped growing and winter blooming was very rare.  In fact, with warm weather early blooming often set people into a panic, knowing that the next frost will likely ruin flowering for that plant for the year.  However, we were mostly hunkered down waiting for March to allow the blooms to return.

Then I moved to Florida.

Current Situation

With some weeks threatening a hard freeze and the next reaching daytime temperatures in the 80’s, this has been a roller coaster of a winter in 2019.  With these swings, some plants are being tricked into blooming and budding early while others just never bothered to go dormant.  In fact some of our demonstration gardens are producing tomatoes and eggplants still.

This is not true for all plants since bloom and buds can also be determined by day length, weather, and location in the landscape.  Some however are now in full bloom.

Solutions

There is not much to do in the landscape for plants that are blooming or growing out of season but it can cause some issues.  Blooms and young growth are often more tender, leaving them susceptible to future cold snaps.  In fact, if a plant is not dormant it is best to not prune them back now as it can also start a flush of new growth.

For most landscape plants the best thing to do is to let them go for the season but high value plants or fruit trees that have begun to flower can be protected using frost cloth on cold nights (see blog post on frost protection here).

For more information on this topic, check out my article for the Clay Today here and contact our office at (904)284-6355 or by email at clay@ifas.ufl.edu with any questions.