We don’t blame you if you aren’t an expert on how to protect plants from frost in Southern Florida — it isn’t exactly a common thing here. But of course, the weather can be a little bit wacky at times, and cold spells still strike now and again. Keep tabs on the weather forecast for the next few weeks in case the temperatures start to dip so that you can protect your plants before the frost hits.
Different types of plants need different kinds of protection, and many of our tropical plants here are sensitive to cooler temperatures that are still above freezing. We’ve broken down the basics for you, so you can figure out how to protect plants from frost in Fort Lauderdale, whether they’re tall trees, tiny and delicate flowers, or tender veggies.
How To Protect Potted Plants From Frost And Cold Spells
Potted plants are extra sensitive to the cold because the soil doesn’t retain heat as well as a big garden bed. If possible, bring your plants inside if you suspect it’s going to get cold overnight. If you need to keep them outdoors, gather them all together, so they’re in a big huddle, and give them a thorough watering ASAP. A well-watered plant is much better equipped to tough out the cold.
Applying some mulch onto the soil surface of your potted plants is another smart way to lock some heat in and keep the cold out. This will help keep the roots warm, but the foliage will still be vulnerable to cold, so that needs to get wrapped up. Most folks like to use burlap, but the thicker material can be a bit heavy for more delicate plants. In this case, a cotton sheet can work instead. Use some twine and some strategically-placed tape to keep it held together.
Some gardeners will use bubble wrap, but we don’t recommend leaving this on for too long. Plastic isn’t breathable, so moisture can get trapped and turn a little funky after a few days. Fabric coverings can stay on for months at a time with no issue, so they’re a pretty safe option.
How To Protect Vegetables From Frost
As with the potted plants, start by watering your plants and applying a layer of mulch if there isn’t already some there. Next, you’ll want to pick up some tall stakes that reach up higher than your plants after you stick them in the ground. Vegetables can be a bit sensitive, so it’s best to avoid having them make contact with your covering. Draping material over the stakes will create a protective tent over your garden, keeping the heat in without squishing your veggies.
If you’ve got a few sensitive vegetable plants mixed in throughout a bed of tougher plants, you can always selectively cover them with a jar or a milk jug with the top cut off. Always be sure to remove the covering in the morning if it gets sunny and warm again because sometimes our winter plants can overheat if they’re under a sheet with the sun beating down.
How To Protect Trees From Frost
If the weather goes below 30 degrees, certain trees can get a bit fussy. Citrus trees, oleanders, catalpa, jacaranda, and many tropical trees are not very tolerant of the cold. Wrapping trees in burlap helps to keep the cold out. Ideally, it would be best if you also used some stakes to keep the material from tightly squishing your trees, but this can be a bit tricky depending on the tree’s size.
Before the cold strikes, run the sprinklers for a few hours. Take a few steps back from your tree and take note of how far the branches extend outward. This is approximately how far the roots spread out as well, so to help keep them insulated, layer some mulch all around the tree at an equal diameter.
Covering Plants And Flowers In Garden Beds
Sturdier plants won’t be affected if materials like landscaping fabric make contact with their foliage. However, some more delicate plants and flowers might be better off with some overhead space beneath the fabric. Place stakes around the garden bed just like you would with a vegetable garden.
For a little bit of extra heat, some crafty gardeners have even gone so far as to string Christmas lights through their makeshift blanket tents. LED lights don’t make quite as much heat as standard incandescent bulbs, so just grab the regular, less-fancy Christmas lights and attach them to the covering, avoiding contact with the plants.
If you’re unsure which of your garden plants require protection, don’t hesitate to visit us at Living Color Garden Center! Our team is pretty well-versed in the ins-and-outs of weatherproofing plants, so we’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have.