31218thumbThis really is the best climate for gardening. Even though summers are mild, there are not many plants that want for more warmth. Even though winters are mild, it gets just cool enough for many plants that require winter chilling. Yet, there are a few plants, particularly plants from tropical climates, that can be damaged by frost. The best way to protect such plants from frost is to not grow them.

Of course, this oversimplified technique would prevent the cultivation of familiar plants like banana, angel wing begonia and angel’s trumpet. In cooler regions, it might involve bougainvillea, philodendron and some types of citrus. Most of us would prefer to take some degree of risk to grow marginal plants. Some may get damaged by frost and then recover. Others may be killed by frost.

Potted plants can be moved to sheltered spots when threatened by frost. Some can be brought into the home or garage temporarily. For some, the simple shelter of a porch or a dense evergreen tree might be sufficient. Bougainvillea and other plants that do not like to be potted might prefer to be planted under the eaves against a warm south-facing wall. A bit of warmth radiates from walls at night.

During the coldest nights, some of the most sensitive plants that can not be moved to shelter may need shelter brought to them. Burlap, plastic, paper or any sort of sheeting that can be temporarily suspended on stakes above the foliage should be sufficient. Leaves that touch the sheeting can potentially get frozen. The sheeting should be removed during the day so that it does not get too warm in the sunlight.

Foliage that does get damaged by frost should not be pruned away immediately. It may be unsightly, but if left for later, it helps to insulate inner foliage and stems from subsequent damage from later frost. Besides, immediate pruning stimulates new growth that will be even more sensitive to frost than was the foliage and stems that had already been damaged.

13 thoughts on “Being Cool Might Be Overrated

  1. Down here, the severity of a winter often is judged by the number of times the plants have to come in. Last year was a two-move winter. This year, I’ve already turned my living room into a tiny jungle once, and it’s not even December.

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    1. Most of us here do not grow plants that need protection from the mild frosts. I have a few that I brought back from Southern California, but I prefer to not grow such needy things. I probably would if I lived where winters are colder.

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  2. Interesting this. Here we cover things we want to save beyond an early frost, then eventually they die. But a few things like figs do well against a south-facing wall. They get nipped, but come back. I did not know about not cleaning up the nipped bits, but then I realized that was because where I am, we don’t have that much that’s outside its zone. So much information is specific to your location. It’s a lesson in the particularity of gardening.

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    1. Most of us prefer to not grow plants that need protection from frost, but there is always something. Bougainvilleas are so pretty in Southern California that we want to grow them too. They generally do quite will, but can get frosted in some spots.

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      1. I remember the first time I saw Bougainvilleas. They were amazing. And on St. Croix, so they never get frosted, I assume. I’d grow them too, if there was half a chance they’d last more than one season.

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      2. Even though they can get a bit frosted here every few years, they have always been popular, and became even more popular when so many people came to the region of San Jose from Vietnam decades ago. For the kids I grew up with, they are about as traditional as apricot trees.

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      1. I would not know why they should not be pruned. Unless there is something that I am not aware of, they can get pruned until their buds begin to swell at the end of winter. If there is concern that the pots will freeze, they should probably be moved to a more sheltered situation. It might be easier to move them after they get pruned.

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      2. I’ll tell my daughter-in-law to prune them immediately! And they may overwinter better in the pole barn; just to keep the wind and snow off them. Thanks for the help, Tony!


  3. Glad you mentioned that it’s fine, and in fact, best to leave freeze-burned foliage. As well, if a plant has seeds that birds might partake of, or winter-worn foliage for nesting, it’s just fine and appropriate to leave the leaves.

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