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Brrr. It's a little chilly this week! It's that time of year where we have to play duck and cover with some of the plants here at the nursery. Okay, so it's not exactly nuclear explosions we're trying to protect the plants from. But freezing weather can cause lots of damage to tender plants!

Tuck and Cover!

Duck and cover is really more like tuck and cover. One of the best ways to protect your tender plants from freezes is to cover them up. Use an old bedsheet or light blanket. We also sell specialty freeze cloth here at the nursery. Whatever you use, don't wrap with plastic!


Plastic can trap condensation inside and burn leaf edges. Make sure you use something "breathable". Also, watch out for fabric that is too heavy. Smaller branches could break in high wind or if ice settles on top, it can add extra weight to the cover.

Tuck them in real good and make sure to read them a bedtime story. Seriously though, you want to make sure your cover reaches the ground as much as possible. Secure with clothespins and you're good to go!

Water You, Crazy?

But wait, there's more! Before you go wrapping everything up, make sure your plants are well watered. Why? Sounds crazy, but water actually acts like insulation for the root ball.

When cold air hits dry ground, it also gets to the roots of plants. Since there's moisture in the roots, guess what? The roots freeze. It actually causes the cells inside to pop. If you water beforehand, the cold air will hit the water around those roots first. The frozen water then acts like a barrier, preventing the cold air from getting all the way to the roots. Neat, huh?


If you have plants in containers, putting them close to the house is a good idea if possible. This keeps them out of the wind and radiant heat from the house will help!

Do All Plants Need a Blankie?

Isn't this a lot of work? Well, a little. But remember, you don't need to wrap your entire garden. You also don't have to worry about most plants freezing until we get into the mid and low thirties. Here are some things you do and don't need to cover!

Tuck and cover:

  • Bougainvilleas, Mandevilla, Allamanda and other tropical vines
  • Young citrus trees-small ones that still have a lot of green on the trunk
  • Tomatoes and peppers-they can easily get nipped in early spring!
  • Tropical Hibiscus and Bird of Paradise
  • Houseplants-wait, what are they doing outside still?! Bring those babies in!
  • Young Sago Palms and other cold sensitive palms

Don't worry about:

  • Shade trees and stone fruit like apples, peaches or pears
  • Perennials-they might look bad after a freeze, but they will generally come back next spring
  • Winter annuals like pansies, snapdragons, cyclamen and stock
  • Magnolias or Redbuds
  • Evergreen shrubs like Loropetalum, Boxwood, Euonymus or hollies

Need More Help?

There's always a chance that even if you do everything right, it might just get too cold. Even the best gardeners lose plants sometimes!

Not sure if your plant should be covered, watered brought inside or read a bedtime story? Give us a call at the nursery and we can help. Also remember that plants are just one of the 3 P's when it comes to freezing weather-don't forget the pipes and pets!