Florida Winter Plant Protection Tips
Even though Florida experiences moderate winter temperatures, a freeze can still occur. All it takes is one night of exposure to wind and temperatures between 30-40 degrees, and your tender plants or shrubs can receive cold damage without winter plant protection.
Here are some tips on what to before and after cold temperatures in Florida occur.
How To Cover Plants and Shrubs
Covering plants and shrubs that are not cold hardy, is the best way to protect them when a freeze is predicted to happen in Florida. Use cloth, sheets, quilts, burlap, or covering you can get from local nurseries made specifically for plants.
Do not use plastic for winter plant protection, for it will cause water droplets from condensation to appear on the leaves which will result in burning them.
Covers that extend to the ground can lessen cold damage by reducing heat loss. Even though it’s hard to do, try to keep the cover from coming in contact with the foliage, this can cause the leaves to turn brown. Even if you can’t keep the cover from coming in contact, cover them anyway. It’s better than no winter plant protection at all.
Plants or flowers in containers or pots can be brought inside the house or in the garage. If they must be left outdoors push them together for winter plant protection, to reduce heat loss. You can also cover them with proper covering. Remember when temperatures warm up separate them as soon as possible because the leaves can be damaged if left crowded together for a long time.
What To Do After Freeze Has Ended
When the freeze has ended with temperatures returning to normal and the sun shines again, remove covers, for plants need air and light as soon as possible. Any brown leaves will fall off naturally, and new growth should appear when the temperature warms up. If you want to, remove brown leaves by hand.
After removing winter plant protection, check plants and shrubs for their watering needs. Water as soon as possible. The ground or soil in containers may still be frozen, so they will need to thaw it out. This helps plants receive water as quickly as possible.
Pruning And Fertilizing Cold Damaged Shrubs
Pruning and fertilizing should be delayed until Springtime. When spring arrives new growth should start, and then you will know if the plant or shrub has survived the winter. You can see which woody stems or branches are alive or dead, by scraping off the bark with your fingernail. Look for green tissue and prune back dead stems to the point where the green begins, even if it means cutting them down to the base of the plant or shrub. You will know within 30 days if they will survive.
Proper Care For Winter Plant Protection
If the soil drains poorly then over a period of time plants or shrubs will develop weak shallow roots, which will make them more susceptible to cold damage. If the soil has not been overwatered, then it is recommended to water before a freeze. The ground will absorb more solar radiation and will radiate heat at night. Applying mulch around the roots will also help protect by reducing heat loss.
Plants and shrubs that are fertilized in the fall with the correct balance of nutrients, will tolerate the cold and recover quicker. Late fertilization can cause new growth which is very susceptible to cold injury. Also pruning shrubs too late will result in a flush of new growth, which will hurt them when cold weather arrives.
Winter Plant Protection From Proper Planting
The first step homeowners can take in helping plants from winter weather starts at the beginning when designing your landscape. When selecting planting sites remember temperature changes differ from one area to another. Tender plants should be planted in areas where there is good air drainage, and not in low spots where cold air settles. Protect plants by arranging them with cold hardy shrubs, using them as a barrier for winter plant protection. Placing tender plants and shrubs where fences and buildings can protect them from wind, is a great step in saving them during the winter months.
I know it is hard to keep all plants and shrubs from having some cold damage, but with proper winter plant protection, one can keep them from dying. Proper care and planting can also help in keeping problems from happening. Both will reduce your chances of having to replace them in the spring.