PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The way many plant lovers care for their prized petunias is much the way doting parents coddle their children. There are the right ways, the wrong ways, and to be sure, everyone has an opinion. 

So what is the correct way to protect your precious plants when Mother Nature threatens to freeze them to death, or at the very least, damage them?

Rick Fazzio, owner of Christine’s Tropical and Exotic Plants at the Oldsmar Flea Market, doesn’t take any chances when it comes to cold weather. He knows from experience, cold weather and delicate plants don’t mix.

“Everything was outside. We brought it in to get it out of the cold, of course,” said Fazzio. “It’s not that it’s going to hurt all of these plants, but if they lose leaves and stuff, it’s harder for me to sell.”

Jane Morse, with the University of Florida IFAS Agriculture Extension Office in Pinellas County, says people routinely call with plant and pest questions. When the temperatures dip, the calls regarding plant protection during the cold rise.

Morse says covering plants with sheets of fabric helps protect them from the colder temperatures, but if you want to protect the entire plant, the material should not rest on the leaves.

“What people usually do is they just lay it on top of the plant, but wherever it’s touching can still get cold damage,” said Morse. “So it should really be above the plants so you should put some stakes or something.”

Other callers ask about watering during a freeze. Morse says watering before the temperatures sink is a better idea. The water keeps the plants moist and helps the soil retain heat. Watering plants during the freeze is only effective if you’re in it for the long haul.

“People will water and the water will freeze on the plant and then they’ll stop watering.”

Morse says that can cause even more damage.

“What you have to do is water and keep watering until all that ice has melted.”

Every county in the Tampa Bay area has its own UF IFAS extension office. Agents are there to answer any question you have regarding plants, lawns, pests or just about anything else landscape related.Click this link to find your closest office.

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