icicle-on-spruce-1440073-mFreezing weather normally occurs in north and central Florida, while below freezing temperatures are rare for south Florida. Tropical plants and summer annuals do not adapt or harden to withstand temperatures below freezing, and many suffer “chilling injury” at temperatures below 50°F (10°C).

While it isn’t necessarily snowing, the wind chill factor in South Florida tonight could create freezing temperatures that some plants are not used to. Here are a few tips on protecting your plants from the cold weather.

Which plants should you protect? Native plants and established plants ( 2 years old or more) are more likely to be able to handle the cold snaps. Recently planted, unestablished plants may be more susceptible to cold injury. Tropical plants and cold sensitive plants such as Sago Palms, Heliconias, and some annuals are also susceptible to cold damage and should be covered to help minimize damage from the cold. Plants on the north side of your home especially need protection as well. Plants in containers can be moved into protective structures where heat can be provided if necessary. Containers that must be left outdoors should be protected by mulches and pushed together before a freeze to reduce heat loss from container sidewalls. Plants may be damaged if crowded together or  left covered for an extended period of time, so be sure to adjust them the next day.

How and what should you cover them with? Cover the plants with something that reaches all the way to the ground to keep the heat locked in. Freeze cloths are sometimes available at your local nursery or big box store. If you are looking for something already around the house try and find thick blankets, as well as old sheets and towels. Double or triple up on sheets for the better results, as one may not be enough. It is best to avoid using plastic. Use bricks or something heavy to keep the cover secure and from blowing away. 

What about my sod? Established sod should fare well, but sod that has just been laid is most vulnerable, because it hasn’t established a solid root system. When you water your sod, be sure to do it early in the day to avoid cold or fungal damage to your lawn.

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