Dos and don’ts: Covering plants before a freeze

Ideal temperatures for sensitive tropical plants range between 65-75 degrees

Orlando, FLA. – Central Florida has its reputation of being a tropical paradise, but every few years a frost or freeze settles in, putting our tropical plants and other sensitive vegetation in harm’s way.

However, with advance notice, there are some steps you can take to keep your lush tropical oasis alive, during those bitter cold nights.

What steps should you take before a freeze to protect sensitive plants?

Watering the afternoon before an overnight freeze can help in protecting your sensitive plants. By watering the surrounding dirt, you increase the amount of heat that the soil absorbs during the day.

Cover plants with breathable, cotton blankets before sundown. This will trap the heat that the soil radiates overnight.

If possible, bring potted plants inside or bring them closer together. Also, add additional mulch around the plants to help keep the heat trapped at the surface.

What can be used instead of a frost cover?

At hardware stores, cloths sold to prevent sensitive plants from frost can run about $10-15. But on the rare occasion temperatures dip into the 20s and 30s, there are some simple household items you can use instead.

You can use lightweight cotton bed sheets, quilts or painter’s cloth. These options work well because they are light and allow air and sunlight to flow through. Heavier options could work like burlap or cardboard, but make sure not to put too much weight on the branches.

Make sure the covering goes all the way down to the ground, so it can efficiently trap the warm air escaping the soil.

Stay away from plastic tablecloths or shower curtains, as plastic could freeze, resulting in killing or freeze burning the plant.

What to do with plants after a freeze?

As long as temperatures have remained above 20 degrees, most species of grass should begin to rebound come springtime.

If the grass experienced a hard freeze with temperatures below 20 degrees, some lawns may be permanently damaged. In this case, additional work might be needed, including adding new sod pieces or plugs.

After a cold snap, water is always a good idea. Watering a lawn after a freeze helps defrost any parts of the soil and rejuvenate grass and injured plants.

Patience is key to bringing life back into the lawn. Hold off fertilizing grass and plants because fertilizing too soon could encourage new growth before the cold weather has left.

About the Author:

Candace joined the News 6 team as the weekend morning meteorologist and reporter. She comes to Central Florida from Miami.