How to Protect Plants Before Frost

Some plants cannot withstand freezing temperatures, and the plant may suffer from aesthetic damage or die. You can prevent frost burn with a few simple tips and no longer worry about your frost-tender plants in the garden.

1. Water: Ensure the soil around the plants is thoroughly moist. Only water if the soil is dry! You CAN overwater in the winter! Soil moisture is essential in the winter since it keeps the plant hydrated from the dry winter cold and will keep the surrounding area warmer since water has a higher average temperature than air.

If you’re unsure if the soil is dry, pick up a moisture meter at the nursery. It is an inexpensive tool that will save you time, water, and money!

brown and purple-petaled flowers

2. Cover: Use a frost cloth or breathable fabric to keep the frost off sensitive plants. Frost cloth differs from plastic, a sheet, or a blanket from the house. Frost cloth breathes well and allows light in where plastic doesn’t breathe, and sheets or blankets do not always let in light.

If you have to use something other than frost cloth,  it has to be removed during the day to let in light and allow the plant(s) to breathe. The frost cloth should also not touch the plant if at all possible. If any type of covering touches the plant, the frost will transfer directly through to the contacted portion.

3. Do not prune: Sensitive plants, that is. Any damage plants may have incurred already or will incur should not be removed. The damaged portions help insulate the plant against further damage. It is best to wait to prune any frost damage until Spring, when you see new growth beginning to push.

Which Plants Do I Need to Protect?

1. Citrus trees, especially those with fruit. Frost can damage fruit on the tree.

2. Succulents! Read more about those that are frost-hardy, here.

top-angle photography of succulent plants

3. Tropical plants: Bougainvillea, Mandevilla, Ginger, Tropical Hibiscus, Kaffir Lily, houseplants (they really should be in the house now!), Fuchsia, and more. If you have something I haven’t listed, you can call the nursery or drop by to find out if you need to protect it.

4. Most winter veggies in our climate take frost fine, but I would recommend covering spinach, lettuce and celery, and new seedlings.

5. Some palms: Canary Island Palm, Date palms, Sago palms primarily. Protecting these can be tricky because of their size and shape. It is more important to protect the trunk and top of the trunk (crown); the leaves can easily grow back in the Spring.

Sago palms are an exception; protect the entire plant as much as possible. A trick is to use Christmas lights, the old ones with C7 or C9 bulbs, and wrap the palm trunk, then leave it on all night. These lights give off more heat than the smaller ones or the LEDs.

I hope that information helps prepare you and your garden for this cold spell. If you have further questions, feel free to ask in the comments or call/drop by the nursery, and our staff can help!


January 12, 2013

Thanks for the question Carole. If your patio is on the north side I would protect the north side of the plants. Otherwise just make sure they are watered thoroughly but not overwatered and they should be fine!

January 23, 2013

Really liked what you had to say in your post, Freezing Temperatures AHEAD! | The Greenery Nursery and Garden Shop, thanks for the good read!
— Sara

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