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Deep cold should not be devastating to most plants

Posted: Sunday, January 10, 2010

With temperatures dipping into the teens and forecasters calling for more frigid weather in the week ahead, should extra care be taken for outside plants?

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Jenny Addie, a Green Thumb West Nursery and Garden Center employee and horticulturist, said there are several things going for plants already in the ground.

First, a wetter-than-usual season means that the moist ground is providing extra insulation to plant roots. Additionally, because there already had been cold weather going into these even colder nights and mornings, the plants are already adapted to cool temperatures.

"Had we had warmer weather and then these temperatures in the teens, it could have proven a problem for the plants," Addie said.

Because the plants had a chance to go dormant, it is likely that most of them will not be harmed by the colder temperatures. However, Addie warns that it could be months before anyone knows whether the freezing weather affected their plants.

"Lots of times we don't see the damage of cold weather until the spring," said Addie, who suggests using frost blankets, which can be purchased at home and garden stores, to shield the plants. She urges against using plastic, and says towels and sheets also provide good protection.

While many plants probably won't be damaged by the wintry weather, Addie said people with subtropical plants should protect them.

"With things like the Sego palms and other subtropical plants, it doesn't matter about the fronds," said Addie. "What's important is to protect the crown of the plant where the fronds grow from."

To protect the crown, Addie suggests applying a layer of burlap or a blanket around the plant.

For those with container gardens, it is important to protect those plants from the cold winds. Addie said that grouping, or clustering, container gardens together can help insulate them.

Though plants in the ground are getting enough water from the rain of the past month, Addie said when a container garden starts to dry out, water it with room-temperature or tepid water.

Finally, Addie said sprinklers on automatic timing should be turned off.

"This is for everyone's safety," she said, adding that with freezing temperatures, water that ends up on the roadway can cause a slick patch of ice and pose a driving hazard.



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