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We are now into December and if the weather has not yet changed for the colder where you are, it could happen suddenly and without much warning. Don’t panic! There are some easy methods you can use to protect your plants from the damaging cold temperatures.

Although it depends on the state where you live in regards to the climate and temperature, some commonly grown trees, shrubs, and plants that need to be protected from the cold and frost are citrus fruit trees and shrubs, Christmas type trees, winter garden vegetable beds, ferns, cactus, and succulents. Make sure to do an Internet search to find out which plants in your local area need to be protected or better yet, visit a nearby plant nursery and talk to a pro.

It is important to note that these tips are meant for short term frosty temperatures only. If you live in an area with snow or long periods of cold and freeze, then consult a plant professional or the Internet for care information. Here are a few tips to keep your plants healthy and alive through the wintertime:

  1. If the plant is in a pot, move delicate and smaller plants under the porch or against the house to shield from the chilly winds and cold rain. It may not be possible for you to move all such plants under the porch. In this case, cluster potted plants close together to create a plant shield and for support against the wind.
  2. Keeping movable potted trees and plants in the garage until the freezing temperatures subside is a great short term shelter from the frost. You can also house plants in the shed or in your greenhouse, if you have one. Caution: avoid bringing plants inside because it can take a long time for plants to adjust back to outdoor climate and temperature changes.
  3. Use old blankets, towels, tarps, or buy cloths that are specifically made for covering plants in freezing temps, like frost cloths. Create a support structure so that covers are not touching plants or winter vegetable beds and keep them from blowing away by weighing down the bottom of covers. Remove all covers during the day so plants can absorb sunlight, some moisture, and fresh air. Put covers back on for the cold evening and early morning hours.
  4. Lay down a mulch such as straw or dry leaves over low plants for protection. These natural materials provide a good insulation for warmth when frost is present and prevents plants from cooling off too quickly. Rake mulch back and away from plants slightly when spring comes.
  5. This may sound strange, but water those plants! Water very well all around the ground while doing your best to avoid letting the water touch the trunk, stems, or other parts of the plant. Accidentally getting the plant body wet does not necessarily mean the plant will die. How does this help? Watering generously can help the soil to retain some of the day’s heat into the cold night. However, do not do this type of watering if your area is expecting a hard freeze.

After a frost you may notice some dead looking, dry, and split leaves and branches. No matter how ugly this might look, wait until spring to prune away plant damage from frost, as pruning in the winter as frost damage occurs can make things worse. Many times, plants that have gotten slightly damaged during the winter months’ frost will heal itself by spring.

Image Source: Will Hedington/Flickr

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