Miss Kirby's KommonSenseTips for
Garden Cold Protection
...perfect temperatures to be out in your garden relieving stress and having fun. Winter here isn't snow, it's temperature reductions from 30 to 80 degrees. Plants know it's winter: tropicals aren't quite up to their lush summer standards and the cool weather varieties are absolutely stunning.
Most non-tropical exterior landscape plants (hibiscus, jasmine, glass plants, philodendron, ligustrum, virburnum, etc.) will withstand temperatures down to 38 degrees or so without sustaining much damage. That is, if they are in a good state of food and water health. Below that temperature, depending on wind conditions, they may or may not.
Plants are also living entities
Plant health is very important. Just like you, your dog or cat, if a plant is suffering from lack of any major or minor elements of the food chain, or are under stress from lack of water, they are much more likely to be injured by cold. Cold is an additional strain. It's an "old wives tale" that you shouldn't feed here in Florida during the winter months. If I starved you down to 60 pounds and then threw you out in the cold without water (you're already dehydrated), would your body be able to continue living and or repair itself? Of course not. Plants are also living entities. They cannot verbalize or move, but in all other respects they are alive and they need food and water.
Here’s how to protect your plants when temperatures will drop under 38 degrees.
1) Water the plants thoroughly the day before it's going to be cold at night. Make certain that the foliage is dry before nightfall. If you're watering with an irrigation system, let it run for at least two hours. When the system is done watering, pull the plug to the clock so there is no chance of the water coming on during the cold hours. (Water that is run continuously during cold acts as insulation, but if the water goes off the cold could kill your plant. There could be power outage, so it’s better to be safe.)
2) Move your tropicals indoors or cover them with a blanket, towel or plastic that is kept from touching the plant by some sort of support. Remove the cover when the sun and the temperature rises.
Cold sneak up on you?
What if your plants were not protected, and appear dead or damaged? Many tropicals (curcuma, alocasia, banana, etc.) will have their tops burned by the cold right down to the ground, but they shoot up from the roots with warm weather. Some of the true tropicals do die if they aren't protected (aglaonema, anthurium, aralia dieffenbachia, etc.) and will need to be replaced come Spring.
What do you do if the cold sneaks up on you and it dropped below freezing while you slept, or your irrigation system came on and then turned off?
First, don't assume your plants are dead. Just like for a sick person, keep the soil moist and put them on the plant equivalent of chicken soup: liquid food with a full complement of minor elements. I've found that DynaGro 3-12-6 is the best for regenerating and 7-9-5 is best for growing. (See my "Kommon Sense Guide to Fertilizers,” which tells you everything you wanted to know about plant food but were afraid to ask.)
When you see the beginnings of new leaves sprouting from the soil level, apply a very light dose of our RBS (Root-Ball Special) fertilizer and continue with the weekly liquid food program. When the regenerating plant gets up to about 6 inches high, apply a light dose of WW (Walpole Wonder). The re-growing process will take probably through August.