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Freeze Protection

**This is an article that Jason posted in December 2010. Even though we have made it through December so far without freezing temperatures, this article is still very timely and appropriate for the season. It details some plants that are particularly susceptible to freeze, tells you how to protect them, and even tells you what to do post freeze. This is a must read for every homeowner.

Protecting Your Plants in a Freeze!

It’s only mid-December and we’ve already had two periods of below freezing temperatures in many areas of Central Florida. With several months of winter still ahead of us it is important to understand what plants in your landscape may be affected by freezing temps and the best way to protect them. Some common tropical plants in our area that need protection in a freeze are hibiscus, bougainvillea, ixora, plumbago, mandevilla, arboricola, philodendron, ti plants, firebush and allamanda to name a few. There are also a few common palms, such as foxtail palms, areca palms and roebellini palms that will need protection in a freeze.

How to protect your plants!

Most importantly, monitor the weather so that you have ample time to prepare for freezing conditions. I would also suggest that if you have plants in your landscape that are susceptible to freeze damage, go ahead and make sure you have or purchase protective materials. It is often too late if you wait until right before a freeze as materials quickly sell out. Good materials to use would include cloth (such as sheets), burlap or freeze cloth (which you can purchase at local garden centers). You want to avoid using plastic!! Before the sun sets, cover the susceptible plants with your material. Be sure that the material completely covers the plant and is secured to the ground. You can use stakes or even some type of heavy object such as bricks or loose rock. For palms, I like to use a strap, twine or rope of some sort to tie the fronds together. This will make it easier to wrap the palm. Then you want to wrap your material around the trunk, crown and fronds and secure with your strap. When temperatures return to above freezing you want to remove your protection.

Post Freeze

Depending on the particular plant, temperature and duration of freeze, you may still incur some amount of damage to plants. Damage will usually show within 2 to 3 days. You want to avoid the temptation to prune freeze damage right away. Doing so will leave the plant even more susceptible to damage in the event of another freeze. Once we get into late February (the average last freeze date for central Florida is February 15th), we can than assess damage and prune accordingly.