Extreme Winter Cold Protection for Your Plants
Winter is finally here and with it comes our crazy Atlanta temperatures! Most of your landscape plants will be fine during this period but occasionally with extreme cold like we are having now some plants may show damage. Right now the most important plants to protect are those that are getting ready to bloom like Camellias and tender plants like some tropicals that are borderline in our planting zone. Damage will depend on how long the freezing weather lasts and the overall health and tenderness of your plants. Mulching your landscape is excellent protection for your plants during our extreme cold.
Plants that can be affected:
Container plants, Camellias with buds, Gardenia, Fatsia, Aucuba, palms and Lantana (perennial).
If your plant is very large then protection will be difficult or impossible. Concentrate on the manageable plants or only a special plant or two.
Preventative measures you can take:
Place container plants in a covered area (garage, house or shed )or place a protective covering over them making sure the foliage is not in contact with the cover . Using stakes will help create a tent like enclosure. The roots will get freeze damage so wrap the pot with plastic, burlap or plastic. Placing plants against a wall or other structure will help break the wind. Small courtyards or semi enclosed spaces will help protect them too.
Before it freezes (while the ground is not frozen), water your plants to help protect the roots. Soil that is well watered will absorb heat and radiate heat. Plants will weak or shallow roots are more susceptible to injury. Mulching the roots helps regulate soil temperatures.
Covering your tender plants and plants that are in bud (like Camellias) will create a pocket of air to insulate them. Ideally the cover should not touch the foliage but sometimes that is very difficult to do. Make sure the cover also reaches the ground and is secured in case of strong winds.
Home Depot is selling lightweight plant covers that come in different sizes. They have a drawstring which will help keep them from blowing off. Other stores and nurseries may be offering similar products. Call before you run out to get some to make sure they are available. You can also use sheets, plastic or cardboard boxes. Black plastic is best since clear will create a greenhouse and could overheat your plant. Just remember to secure them with rocks or stakes so they don’t blow off! Fortunately this freeze will pass through in the next couple of days and we can get back to our normal winter temperatures. Don’t forget to take your covers off when the weather warms up to above 32 degrees. Plants need light and will suffer if the cover is left on for longer than 2 days.