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Winter Plant Protection

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Freezing temperatures can be harmful to many landscape plants. However, there are steps you can take to ensure their survival.

Move Plants Inside:
When it’s possible to move a container inside your home, do so. A garage, shed or other external space will also provide some insulation to keep plants safe. If you do not have room inside to move containers, try moving potted plants next to the house, especially along a sunny, south-facing wall to get some added warmth from the walls.

Mulch:
A fresh layer of mulch will provide added insulation for the landscape’s root system. If possible, mulch up to the stem to provide as much coverage and insulation as possible. Mulch can also be applied to the surface of container plants for a bit of protection. Freshly planted and young specimen trees as well as flower beds can benefit from a fresh layer of mulch to help with moisture control. This will help insulate the roots and can protect the plant’s crown.

Cover:
Covering plants is one of the easiest and best ways to provide additional freeze protection. Low-growing bedding plants and ground covers can be blanket-covered with fabric or plastic. Container plants that cannot be moved to a warmer location should be grouped together and blanket-covered. Make sure the cover reaches the ground because it’s the root system that needs to be protected- not the foliage.
If a cover is draped over the top of a shrub or tree, but does not completely touch the ground, all the soil warmth will be lost. If you cannot enclose the plant, it is better to wrap the covers around the base of the plant. Make sure to remove the cover when above when above freezing and during the day to let the plant get sunlight. It is fine to leave a cover on for a few days if needed, but remaining covered for too long can have detrimental outcomes.
The north and west sides of your house will get colder than the south and east sides.

Remember: the goal is to keep the root system insulated as opposed to just the foliage. If possible, place some soil or heavy material at the base of the cover to hold the sheet or plastic to the ground to create a heat seal. Take additional care to ensure you do not break any branches. Also, container-grown plants are more susceptible to freezes than landscape plants because the root system does not have the soil as an insulator.

Watering:
Make sure you water prior to a freeze if the soil is dry. Freezes often are accompanied by dry winds, which can dry plants out.

Pruning:
Pruning should be ceased near freezes. Pruning generally pushes for new growth to start, which is susceptible to cold temperatures. Hold off the urge to prune poor-looking plant materials directly after freezes as well. Often it will take many days, weeks or even months to assess true winter damage! Scratch the stem lightly with a knife or even your fingernail. If there is a green tissue underneath, the branch is alive.  Pruning can be done to deciduous ornamentals once they have lost their foliage. Do not prune anything for a week or more after a freeze. It often takes a week or so for all the damage to become evident. Generally, it’s a good idea to delay hard pruning of woody tropical plants, such as hibiscus, until new growth begins in the spring. That way, you can accurately determine which is alive and which is not.

-In your lawn, spread winterizer to help store the necessary nutrients it will need during colder months.

-For trees & shrubs, only apply slow release feeders to keep nutrients in the ground at this time of the year. Now is also the time to amend the PH in your beds and lawns. (Lime & sulfur.)

-Less hardy material, such as certain palms and tropical plants will benefit from simple techniques to keep freeze damage at a minimum.

-Any concerns regarding your pipes or watering systems can usually be taken care of by shutting the water off during hard freezing temperatures, and draining lines.

-If vegetables or citrus are growing, harvest any before a freeze, and protect the plants.