Frost damage is a cold reality.

Frost happens. It may not happen every winter. It may not happen everywhere. For a few of the mildest climates, it may not be a major concern. For some climates though, it might have potential to cause significant problems. The best means to avert frost damage is to avoid plants that are vulnerable to a degree of frost that is normal for a particular climate.

Of course, that is not as simple as it sounds. Even in mild climates, angel’s trumpet might get shabby from chill that is not cold enough for frost. Where weather gets cooler, familiar plants such as bougainvillea, avocado, lemon, fuchsia and pelargonium may experience frost damage. Such plants necessitate certain precautions, and must assume innate risk. 

Some plants that are susceptible to frost damage can live in portable pots that can move to sheltered situations prior to frosty weather. Some might be houseplants that live in the garden for part of the year, but come inside at least for winter. Eaves, particularly if above walls of heated buildings, may be adequate protection for marginally susceptible plants.

Plants that are susceptible to frost damage, but live in the ground or are too big to move, may need temporary protection from frost. Such protection might consist of tarps, burlap, old sheets, plastic trash bags or cardboard, suspended above by stakes and string. Thin materials, such as sheets or trash bags, can freeze through, so should not touch foliage.

Protective tenting materials should not remain over sensitive foliage for too long. Ideally, they should be in place immediately prior to frost, and then gone immediately after. Since frost occurs at night here, protection is useful only overnight. During daytime, it obstructs sunlight, but collects heat to stimulate new growth that is more sensitive to frost damage.

Many plants are too big to protect. Fortunately, bigger plants are less susceptible to frost damage than smaller plants. If possible, outer foliage that succumbs should remain until the local last frost date. Although unsightly, it shelters inner growth. Moreover, premature removal of frost damage stimulates new growth that is even more susceptible to subsequent frost damage.

2 thoughts on “Frost Damage Is Not Cool

  1. Frost is one of those things that we deal with. But I’m glad it’s generally not too much of an issue in the garden–I’ve cleared it out before frost, usually. But today, I got two broccoli heads and one cauliflower head from the garden and I was tempted by parsley and cilantro. A few plants need ice or snow to get them to stop growing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I wrote about last week, many plants need more chill than they get here to know when to begin and end they growth cycle. Some cultivars of apple have enough sense to go dormant here, but with insufficient chill, are not so sure about spring when it arrives. They easily get confused. Even few cultivars perform adequately in Southern California. There were only two that we could grow in Beverly Hills, and neither were very reliable . . . or produced very good apples.

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