Be Prepared to Protect Tender Landscape Plants from Chilly Nights in South Florida. Doug Caldwell
Above: Crossandra are very tender and will brown out when temperatures dip below 45 degrees or so. Below: Ixoras are sensitive as well and will defoliate all their leaves, it seems almost simultaneously, about 2 days after a cold snap.
Public Service Announcement:
COLLIER COUNTY EXTENSION OFFICE OFFERS TIPS TO PROTECT PLANTS IN COLD WEATHER
Collier County is known for its beautiful beaches and abundant sunshine, but even paradise gets a little chilly sometimes. As residents dig out their jackets and fire up the heaters, our luscious tropical plants don’t have the luxury of donning warm winter-wear. They count on us to ensure they can endure those frosty mornings.
While you may prefer your wool sweater to keep you warm, Doug Caldwell, Ph.D., Commercial Landscape Horticulture Extension Educator, says plants prefer frost cloth. “Frost cloth is one of the best ways to insulate plants, especially tender flowering annuals because it isn’t necessary to prop it up, off the foliage,” said Caldwell. If you don’t happen to keep frost cloth handy and can spare the bedding, sheets can protect plants as well. However, with heavier material, support props are needed to separate the material so that it doesn’t touch the plant to best protect the foliage.
For those that can’t spare the bedding, or if you are looking for a more natural approach, pine straw can be spread across the tops of sensitive plants to shield them from the icy embrace of Jack Frost. Pine straw or even old pool cover pieces can also be used to mitigate damage to tropical shrubs or young fruit trees by covering the base of the plants.
Even after a night of cold temperatures there are things you can do, or not do to help the flora flourish through future frosts. “After the freeze, avoid pruning, as new growth may be stimulated which will be more vulnerable to subsequent freeze injury,” Caldwell said. “In fact, it is best not to prune between November and February to avoid inducing tender new growth that will be prone to freeze injury,” added Caldwell.