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Protecting Plants From Frosts And Freezing Temperatures

UPDATED March 5, 2012

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Julie Gaddy


Late-freezes can do significant damage to new blooming plants.

Why are plants susceptible to cold temperatures? Water exists within every plant, from the root to the tip. If the temperature drops below 28 degrees for several consecutive hours, water in plants will turn into ice. This will serve to dehydrate the plant, damaging both the interior and exterior.

Many summertime plants are very susceptible to cold temperatures and frost. Other plants are hardier and can tolerate cold snaps.

Citrus fruits are very vulnerable to freezing temperatures, as are most berries, lettuce, okra, peaches and tomatoes. Flowers including begonia, marigold, and members of the Zinnia and Impatiens families should also be protected. More tolerant vegetation includes apples, cranberries, grapes, peas, spinach, petunia, and verbena. The hardiest plants include beets, dates, turnips, pansy, primrose, and violet.

How do I protect my plants? The easiest method is to use pots which can be moved inside at times like these when cold snaps danger the welfare of your plants. The cheapest way to protect your outdoor flower or vegetable garden is to cover the plants with a layer of mulch. A tarp or blanket will also suffice. Covering your plants will trap the heat underneath, allowing for any vegetation to stay safely warm.

Be sure to check your WeatherBug for the latest forecast in your area. Frost and freeze warnings are issued when overnight temperatures are expected to fall below freezing or frost is likely to form.

Story Image: Frosty landscape visible during the morning commute to Washington, D.C. on March 8, 2007. Photograph submitted by M. Lee, WeatherBug user.

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