Tips for Protecting Your Trees and Plants this Winter

IMG_0114Cooler temperatures have finally arrived in Arizona. The weather forecast for the next few months includes some very cool nights; which might include frost.  Your landscaping is a critical home investment and it is important you take steps to protect it.  Tropical plant varieties that are not used to cold weather are the most likely to be damaged and need protection.  Trees that are susceptible include pygmy date palms and young citrus.   Plants and shrub material like Bougainvillea, Hibiscus, Natal Plum, Cape Honeysuckle and the Red Bird of Paradise need extra care.  Also, if your plants are new or actively growing they probably need frost-protection too.
As Phoenix’s landscape design experts, we want to help ensure that you are able to enjoy your landscaping for years to come and help you save a dollar or two along the way. Here are five tips to ensure your plants and trees survive the cold winter nights:

  • Cover – To protect plants and trees from frost damage, they need to be covered.  These shelters work best when the cover touches the ground.  This way, all the radiated heat that is moving upward from the earth is trapped and the plants are shielded from the cold night air.  Use sheets, light blankets or burlap.   NEVER use plastic – it traps the moisture under the covering and damages the plant.  Thrift stores are a good source of inexpensive sheets.  Some hardware stores and nurseries also sell frost protection sheets.  Cover your plants before sundown and leave them covered until late morning the next day when the temperatures have warmed up.  Be sure to keep them uncovered during the day so that the ground can soak up heat from the sun.  
  • Water – Create a micro-climate for your plants by watering them heavily the night of the freeze before covering.  Soil absorbs heat during the day, and adding water will create humidity which keeps the air warmer.  Be careful not to get the leaves wet.
  • Lighting – Provide extra warmth by using focused lighting with incandescent bulbs.   The light will create heat that will protect the plant from frost. The old-style outdoor Christmas light strings, that have hot incandescent bulbs, are a good choice because they can distribute heat over a large area.  Fluorescent and LED lights however, will not have the same effect.
  • After -Care – If you do incur frost damage, it is important to not prune the damaged parts.   Dead branches and leaves actually provide protection for the part of the plant that is still living.   Wait until spring when the temperatures are warmer, and then you can prune the frost damage.
  • Be Prepared – Plan ahead so that you have the materials you’ll need on hand.  We rarely experience cold temperatures that could cause damage but being ready in advance will give you enough time to make sure that you are able to  take every precaution if needed.

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