TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida doesn’t have much of a winter, it’s the land of spring, summer, and sun. However, on the rare occasion the temperatures drop in the winter, the plants you have at home or in the field might need protection.
According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, your lawn and garden plants can get damaged by sudden freezes.
The temperatures can even sink down “enough to damage tropical, subtropical, and even sometimes temperate plants, especially if they’re not acclimated to lower temperatures.”
The Florida Department of Agriculture‘s Division of Plant Industry also said when the temperature drops or there’s a cold snap, to wrap blankets and sheets around plants to help save them from frost, keeping them insulated. Adding a “significant layer of mulch” around the plants and above the roots will help keep them warm even if the top freezes.
For plant owners worried about ornamental bushes and flowers, FDACS said during a freeze advisory, you can protect your plants “by sprinkling them with water from the time freezing temperature begin until the water begins to thaw.” The department said to take these steps before the temperature hits freezing levels.
Speaking with WFLA.com previously, a member of IFAS in Pinellas County said covering plants with fabric is helpful, but residents should make sure not to rest the material directly on the leaves. Instead, Jane Morse, the IFAS official, said to use stakes or poles to keep the sheets above the plants, since touching the plant can still allow for cold damage.
IFAS said sudden freezes after the normal warm, Florida weather, do more damage than when weather cools down over time.
“Most plant parts can adapt to cold, but fruits and roots do not develop good cold tolerance,” IFAS said. “Acclimatization, protection, and proper post-freeze pruning can help your plants survive a freezing spell or harsh winter season.”
The agriculture institute at UF said that even though Florida has its own “general climate,” everyone’s home is different and has what they call microclimates. Examples are areas of the house that are cooler or warmer, or wetter or drier.
IFAS said to be sure not to put “tender plants” in areas where cold settles and to arrange plantings and fences in a garden in a way that can keep a cold wind from blowing over. Additionally, soil drainage is important, because plants with shallow roots can be hurt by the cold.
Some plants to cover from cold include citrus, fuchsia, bougainvillea, succulents, salvia, hibiscus, jasmine, tree ferns, and penstemon, according to Cypress Creek Landscape Supply.
Now that it is getting chilly, giving Florida some of its few winter days of the year, IFAS said you can put plants into containers to help protect them where heat might get trapped or cut off. If the containers are kept outdoors, they recommend putting them together to help with heat loss prevention, and using mulch to insulate.
After the freeze ends, IFAS said make sure to water, since “plants can lose water because the water in the soil or container medium is frozen” and the water will also help thaw out the soil, giving plants a better chance to keep cool but not icy.