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Cold Weather Dieback: Will your Plants and Trees Survive?

Just when you think spring was here to stay, Jack Frost pays a late season visit and leaves an ugly mess behind. All too often, unseasonably warm temperatures in late winter and early spring can cause big problems in our gardens and landscapes.

These ‘spring-like’ temperatures often result in many plants and trees breaking dormancy prematurely. This sudden drop to below freezing can wreak havoc on tender new growth. So what should you do when this happens? That depends.

Shrubs

Besides the potential season-ending loss of flowers that bloom on or before June (i.e. azaleas, hydrangeas and rhododendrons), the plants themselves usually fare much better. You may choose to remove dead flower buds (they’re gone for the year) for cosmetic purposes. Otherwise, they’ll fall off on their own eventually.

The newly emerging leaves on deciduous shrubs appear burned or blackened or as though it has turned to mush after a late season freeze. Fortunately, in many cases (and depending on the severity and duration of the freeze) damage is often confined to the foliage. In a matter of weeks, these leaves will be shed as new growth emerges to replace it.

Newer branch growth and tips are also subject to dieback. Once several weeks have passed and potential new foliage growth has emerged, you will be able to see any stem dieback. Working from the top down, prune dead stems and tips back to the first set of healthy leaf buds at this time.

Evergreen shrubs may also exhibit damage, but usually in the newest tissue towards the top of the plant. Older, thicker foliage further down, may or may not show signs of damage. Signs of damage include brown or black discoloration or limpness.

Wait to prune back these plants until it is obvious that new growth will not be emerging from the branches. Usually by late May, new growth will have appeared if it is ever coming back. At this time, you can cut back branches to healthy growth.

Trees

Trees respond similarly to shrubs. Although the foliage on your prized trees might look terrible right now, trees must have leaves to survive. When a late season cold snap fries the foliage, new leaves will emerge to take their place. In the event tree branches suffer dieback, you may cut back dead limbs to healthy growth to improve appearance.

Perennials and bulbs

Some perennials and bulb foliage may have taken a hit as well. In the case of hostas go ahead and remove the damaged foliage right away allowing the new foliage to come on unencumbered. If the foliage has turned to mush all the way to the ground, go ahead and remove it. New growth should emerge.

For oriental and Asiatic lilies, you might wait a few more weeks to see if new foliage emerges from the top of the plant. Although they may not bloom this year they will need this foliage to store energy for blooms next year.

I realize this may take a great deal of patience on your part and a willingness to put up with a few ‘uglies’, but don’t be hasty cutting everything down or back all at once. Plants need to grow! Putting out new growth is how they recover and continue to survive. Your patience will be rewarded.

Tender Annuals

Annuals and warm season vegetable plants that appear to have melted away are not coming back. Consider this a valuable lesson learned. There is a reason you hear not to put these plants in your garden until after the risk of the last frost has passed.

You can find information on the average date of the last spring frost for your area by calling your local county extension service. This is especially important information for planting tender perennials and annuals. Some years you might be able to cheat Jack Frost but just like this season sometimes he cheats you!

About Joe Lamp’l

Joe Lamp’l is the Host and Executive Producer of the award winning PBS television series Growing A Greener World. Off camera, Joe dedicates his time to promoting sustainability through his popular books, blog, podcast series, and nationally syndicated newspaper columns. Follow Joe on Twitter

Comments

Last year i planted very fargile plants in my garden. Unfortunately, they all died due to cold forst in morning. This year i have researched for cold standing flowering plants. Calendula and Pansy can stand the cold better and also they are graceful.

My northern catalpa is over 20 yrs old and bloomed last year. Branches look dead but shoots are coming out of main trunk. Tree is on NE side of house. Will other branches recover? Advice?

We have a 28 yr old mature Boston ivy growing around our brick garage (20’x20′ spread). It was healthy until this year. Its May 24th and there is very little or no growth. We think this may be due to an early severe cold snap last October that froze all the leaves on the vine before they had a chance to turn colour fully and fall naturally. Could this be the cause? And what is the outlook for our favourite vine? There is a little green in some of the vine shoots but not a lot. thanks.

CJ, Cold could absolutely cause this dieback. If you see new growth coming up from the base of the plant you should be in good shape. It may take a while but if your Boston ivy is still alive it should recover fully.
Best of luck.

Our red currant bush had just started getting leaf buds when it froze. There was about a week of freezing temperatures and snow. It’s been a couple weeks since it warmed up again and the buds have not grown any more, so I assume they died. However, no new buds have started growing either. Will I get any currants this year?

Anna, It sounds like you may not get many currants this year if you don’t have any buds yet.I would scratch the cane with your finger nail to see if there is any green wood and then you will know it is alive. If the wood is green don’t cut it back, just let your plant recover and maybe you’ll get buds yet. Here is some information that may be helpful for next year.

Frost Injury to Blossoms
Currants and gooseberries bloom early in the spring. Severe frosts can injure blossoms and young developing berries. Frosts cause less problems in sites with good air drainage.

In small plantings, cloth or paper covers can be put over plants for frost protection. Plastic usually gives little or no protection. In larger plantings, sprinkler irrigation is effective. Special nozzles which deliver about 2.5 mm of water per hour are used. The conversion of water to ice on the plants releases heat which protects blossoms and berries. Start applying water over the plants when the temperature is low enough that the water freezes (about -1°C). Irrigation should continue until the film of water covering the blossoms and berries would not freeze if irrigation stopped. Trickle irrigation is not useful for frost protection. Good luck.

I live in northeast Pennsylvania and i decided to do some landscaping for my mother. I put in a raised bed with three “bloomerang” lilac bushes and one small weeping pussy willow tree. Unfortunately I did all this on a 70 degree day followed by a few days of almost January like weather. All 4 plants looked burned and the leaves are dried and crisp along with the new branch growth. Do you think they’ll come back and is there there anything I can do to help them out now that spring has finally sprung?

Donato, Unfortunately there is not a quick fix. I would wait a bit longer and see if you get any new growth appearing before cutting back the plants. You can also try the scratch test with your finger nail to see if the wood is green under the brown on the stems. The Boomerang lilacs are promoted for reblooming so if the branches aren’t dead you may still get flowers this season. Keep plants well watered and make sure soil is well drained. Happy Gardening!

Joseph Millak says

We have a small Japanese maple miniature tree a late Frost has wilted the leaves the tree looks like it’s going to die will it or will these leaves come back we forgot to cover it one night Franklin NC April frost

Joseph, I think your tree will recover and put out new leaves, especially since it was a frost and not a freeze for days.

Hello, my friends tulips have full on bloomed but them temps dropped to low 40s/high 30s last night, only reaching maybe 40 today with periods of snow and ice, with a low of 29/30 tonight but jumping right back to 60s tomorrow, 70s the next day, both days lows being in the 40s, then plummet back to low 40 daytime and low 30 night time, the bloom has fallen over and is laying on the ground because of it. They drive a truck and will be gone for a week so my question is how do I help save his tulip because it has a lot of sentimental meaning to him and I don’t want to see it just die. Please any help will be appreciated!! Thank you!

Michelle, Although the tulips have bloomed and there was a cold snap, the bulbs may be fine for next year.
It doesn’t sound like the ground froze so that is encouraging. If there is green foliage, leave it until it turns yellow and then cut it off. Best of luck.

I recently purchased some plants from Tractor Supply (Gooseberry, Strawberry, Hardy Kiwi, Goji Berry, American Hazelnut, Black Berry, Blueberry and Hybrid Willows). According to the directions it says to plant them outside when the soil is workable, which would be now, but the plants are actively growing; they all have green leaves. I live in Pennsylvania and we still have another month of cold weather. Night temperatures drop down to the mid teens, basically a hard frost every night. I have them in pots and bring them in at night when the temperature drops. If I just leave them out it will obviously kill off the new growth, but could it potentially kill the entire plant? What would be the best thing to do? Leave them in the house for a month? Leave them outside? Or keep bringing them in at night and putting them out during the day?

Steve,
Your instincts are spot on! Because the plants are actively growing and in containers, I would bring them in every night, at least to a garage or somewhere protected from a hard frost and then bring them back outside (weather permitting) during the day. If they were already established plants growing in your garden, I would not be as concerned. Make sure to keep them watered and let them dry out between waterings. Once the frost free date in your region has passed I would plant them outside and be sure to mulch them too. You may already know this but kiwi typically requires a male and a female plant for the best pollination and fruit set. Sounds like you have a great selection of fruit trees and shrubs. Best of luck.

I recently purchased blueberry roots at Walmart, they said to plant mid-March-April, so I went ahead and planted them last weekend, we had been having temps no lower than the 40s for several weeks and I figured they’d be fine. I did not realize that we would be having a late season snow late last week until after I planted them, so I heavy mulched them and covered the plants with clear plastic containers until the snow ended, it melted quickly after and the temps have been back in the 40s and above ever since. My plants looked fine when I took the clear plastic containers off of them after the snow, however they have since turned all brown. I’m worried that the plants have died. Is there any chance they’ll come back? The branches do still feel pliable. They came in a two pack of two different types, one is a Vaccinium Corymbosum Hybrid “Blueberry Misty” (early season harvest), and the other is a Vaccinium Virgatum “Blueberry Legacy” (late season harvest). I’m feeling hopeful, but don’t want to get my hopes too high! Thank you for any input!

Kim, At this point, the most important thing is the root system. If the rootball had lots of healthy looking roots when you planted your blueberries I think they will recover from this setback. If they were actively growing and blooming when it snowed and the flowers were killed, you won’t get blueberries this year but don’t despair. Without seeing the plants, and going by your description, I would wait until the frost free date has passed, (for us in the Atlanta area, this is around April 15) and then cut the brown stems back. It would be great if you could leave at least 5 to 6″ of stem, provided it looks viable. I would keep them watered, once a week should be adequate, keep them in full sun and see what happens. I would not fertilize them while they are recovering. I hope this helps. Keep us posted!

My wife and I are selecting a maple for our home in Arvada, Colorado. We greatly prefer a tree that has the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows during the fall season. It seems that most maples have dangers for our zones (Zone 6a) and soil type (fairly alkaline.) Any suggestions that could help us with this decision?

Rob, Fall is one of my favorite seasons. There is a native for your region called the big tooth maple, Acer grandidentatum that you may want to look for. I recommend that you have your soil tested first, here is a link for the extension service that offers soil testing. http://www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu/ I also recommend the Colorado Tree Coalition. http://coloradotrees.org/find/ They have lists of trees that do well in Colorado. If you are set on a maple, a native selection or cultivar that is selected and known to better tolerate alkaline soils is best. ‘Caddo,’ ‘John Pair,’ and ‘Autumn Splendor’ are worth considering. I hope this helps. Happy gardening!

Pat Larsen says

Just received 10 misc trees in the mail today. We live in western Massachusetts, They were suppose to be delivered in fall, but ….Snowing out and ground is frozen, what do I do with them. One of them is an evergreen. They are ot going to be able to be planted until spring. Do you have any ideas on how to keep them alive?

Pat,
I’m sorry they shipped your trees so late in the season, I know that must be frustrating.
I would contact the nursery you purchased them from and let them know the situation. I hope they will guarantee the trees.(they should since they shipped them to you at this time. If they are bare root and you could dig a trench and heel them in, they may make it until spring. Check with your local cooperative extension service for guidance on heeling them in. If they are in containers and you can group the containers next to a garage wall and cover them with mulch this could help. It is the fluctuations in the temperatures that can cause damage. If the plants can maintain dormancy until very early spring when you can plant them in the ground this may work too. Here is a link for the Western Mass. Extension. I hope this helps. Best of luck. https://ag.umass.edu/extensionoutreach/umass-extension-in-your-community/extension-in-western-massachusetts

We have had a warm February here in Southern Maine. I sold my house & am moving to a new house and I want to dig up my rose shrub & some other perennials. My bed of my perennial garden is soft to dig in but what can I do to preserve my plants after I dig them up if I cannot dig the ground at the new house & plant them right away?
Wrap them in newspaper & keep them in cold dark place, such as my bulkhead? Leave them outside?

If they’re dormant, you could dig them and put them in cold storage, wherever that is: a refrigerator or such. But ideally, I would wait until the last possible minute and dig them then and transplant asap after that. You don’t want them to dry out or break dormancy before you get them in the ground. So slight moisture, VIA damp paper wrapped around the roots combined with cold temps to keep the plants from thinking it’s time to wake up. And also keep them dark.

Dear Joe
We have a red crimson maple tree plus other maples that need to be pruned but the weather here in Virginia has been unseasonably warm and they are starting to bloom. Would it hurt them if we go ahead and trim them now? The crimson maple has been planted for about eight years and hasn’t grown that much. Why? Thank you

You can prune it now Joyce. The sooner the better but now should be fine. I’m in the same boat here in Atlanta and will catch up on my maple pruning this weekend. Here’ they have started to leaf out also.

If crepe myrtles leaves are teeny tiny and deformed looking, does that mean it’s not going to survive?

Not sure I would draw that conclusion Deb. From just what you wrote, it sounds like herbicide damage. If so, it could stunt the growth, maybe kill the tree, but hopefully in time, it will recover. Time will tell.

Hi- I am located in the Boston area – some of my peonies have started to sprout new growth while several of the older (3 years) plants have not. Is this unusual? Our winter wasn’t bad this year – not a lot of snow – but i’m wondering if something may have caused them to die off?

Hi – I planted 4 flowering weeping trees (2 different japanese maples, a weeping cherry, and a weeping redbud) in november – all seem to have been laid low by the late but heavy winter and then the early spring followed by freeze this year (in maryland) – they look scrawny, no leaves, few deadlooking branches; 2 of them are growing some new leaves at their base of their trunks, but the main branches themselves seem dead – is there any hope? what can i do if anything to stabilize them ??

Help right them up Mercy and do what you can to stabilize them. Look for new leaves emerging from the branches and if the top part of branches are dead, cut them back to just above the first set of new leaves. For branches that look dead, if you don’t see new leaves emerging somewhere lower on the branch, prune the branch back until you see green tissue in the branch. If so, the remaining part of the tree branch is viable and should produce new growth eventually. If you don’t like what you see after this, consider replacing the tree.

Great info!
My large border of hostas began turning yellowish and brown as they began to leaf-out this spring, I live in Chicagoland. It’s in all of them and they have been in this location at least 20 years and always beautiful. I was wondering if I should cut them down now or live with it all summer? AND… If I were to cut them down now, is there any chance that they would leaf-out yet again this spring?
I assume they will be fine again next year. I was just hoping to enjoy their beauty this year. btw .. hostas which are planted in other parts of my yard look great, but I don’t believe they began leafing out as early as these began. We had a warmer than normal March, but a cold April. Thanks again for all the great info!

This is strange Lynda. Not sure why those hostas would be acting this way in spring?! Is the sun/shade situation the same? Could they have been exposed to herbicide drift from a neighbor?
I’d cut back the foliage if it’s dead or dying and see if new growth comes back. Or cut some of it back if you don’t want to do it all. We should experiment here to see what happens. You have to be detective for these sort of mysteries and try to solve this mystery.

Hi. I’m a beginner at gardening. I planted veggie seeds and some started to sprout. Today we got a rain snow mix and temp is 43degrees. I didnt have much to cover them but old blankets, cardboard and tarps. Do you think they’re gonna be ok or should I dig it all up and start over round may 1st? Thank you

I can’t say for sure. It depends on several things. But you’ll know within a week. If they perk up, you know you’ll be fine. Just give it a few more days. It’s worth finding out before you start over. It will teach you a lot by observing what happens. Good luck Mary.

Hi Joe, I’m new to caring for roses. My father gave me a cutting two years ago of a rose that belonged to my grandmother. We live in NJ and it’s been doing pretty well in a large pot so far, and appeared to make it through the winter. We had a mild February and it was starting to sprout leaves. A few weeks ago we had a final cold snap and now the stems have all turned black. There is only one small section of green left on one stem and it’s closer to the top, while the base is black. Is there any way I can save this? I’m so upset to lose it. Thanks so much!

Joe, I think my Hosta experienced some yellowing due to the recent cold temperatures. Will they come back to life with there usual green luster?

Yes. Also could be some sun bleaching if your tree canopy hasn’t leafed out yet. Your hostas will be fine in time Janelle.

Cindy in Central Ohio says

Last year at this time I transplanted some Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) from my grandparents’ old house in central Ohio. I was selling the property, and wasn’t at all sure they’d survive, but I dug deep and brought each with a huge dirt ball, then kept them watered well throughout the spring and summer. I was overjoyed a couple weeks ago to see that four of them were coming up!

Then, this cold snap arrived. When I heard it was going to freeze, I went out and bought yards and yards of burlap and some pots. I wrapped them and covered them with the burlap, then inverted a pot over top, then another layer of burlap, and finished with tucking a square of black plastic over top. It warmed up again, and I uncovered them to let them get some light. (They still looked okay.)

But then this new bout of cold weather arrived. Temperatures are supposed to go down to 25 degrees F tonight (Friday) and 21 degrees tomorrow night. So when I rewrapped them yesterday (just as before), I also filled some plastic trash bags with a thin layer of Styrofoam peanuts, and put these underneath the final plastic layer. It’s only supposed to reach a high of 35 degrees F tomorrow, before plunging to 21 degrees, so I had decided not to unwrap them until Sunday. Now I read that there are going to be two more freezing nights next week!

Questions: Do you think my coverings will work to keep them from freezing? (There were some blossoms starting to pop up on a couple of them.) And how long can they go without light before they start to turn yellow (like grass that has been under a kiddie swimming pool)? I was planning to unwrap them again Sunday and leave them uncovered until Tuesday. Then they can possibly be exposed for a few hours, before being rewrapped for Wednesday night. If the blossoms and or leaves get frozen, will they come back next year? I’m just panicking, because I grew up with these, and SO wanted them to survivel! Now THIS!

Hi Cindy. I’m rooting for you. You are dedicated to protecting your bluebells. I think I would go for frost and freeze protection first vs. worrying about sunlight for just a couple of days. Yes, if you have time to give them light during the day for a while then go for it. But I think the bigger risk for you (if at all), is the cold weather. I’m not sure what the lower temperature tolerance is on them but since you just are transplanting them, that certainly makes them more vulnerable than if they were naturally growing before being dug up. This could all be unnecessary but better to play it safe and since you’ve already done the work, I’d stick with it for the next days to get through this. Sorry I don’t have a more definitive answer here but this one could go either way.

my moms rose bushes are full of foliage and her lilac bush is blooming, Its suppose to get down to 30 degrees tonight. I was wondering if that is cold enough to cover or should they be ok? Thank you

Hi! So I think the new growth of my early emerging peonies got zapped last night. some are just poking out of the ground and seem ok but some are 7-8 inches tall and look horrible. does that mean those peonies wont flower this year or will new growth emerge?

I think you will be fine Melissa. Early foliage damage should not deter your plants from doing what they do. The resiliency of nature is pretty amazing and ever-apparent in the garden.

Hi Joe, I’m in CO. We had a some warm weeks and plants were vigorously jumping out of the ground. Then, high winds with 16 inches of snow. Melted fast. Garden did better than I thought, but my daylilies were about 8 inches tall and are now bent over, limp, and with much faded color. Should I just leave them alone or do I need to do something for them? And, if I need to cut them back should I wait a while and how much should I cut? The bottom 3 inches still look healthy. I planted them early last spring so they are now starting their second year.

Also, just wondering – Our neighbor had a beautiful full tree that stood about 15+ feet tall and almost that big around. It was a well established tree. The weight from the snow tipped the tree over and heaved the ground up about a foot for about three feet out behind it. The tree did not completely fall over, but it angled quite a bit. He cut the tree down. I’m just wondering, would the tree have survived if he had waited for the ground to soften and tried to upright it and stake it? Or, if the ground heaves that much will a tree not recover. No, I’m not a snoopy neighbor. I was just really sorry to see that tree go – she was a beauty. I don’t plan to say anything to him (his house, his tree, and it’s moot now), but I think I would have at least tried to save it. None of the roots were exposed. But it did heave the ground quite a bit.

Hi Carole. I would leave your daylilies alone and let nature try to help them recover. If the foliage is damaged and ends up dying, then just let it go or cut it away. Hopefully new growth will emerge to take its place.
Regarding your neighbor’s tree, I would have left it alone until it could be uprighted and then possible secure staking until new roots anchored it in. I think that would have saved it.

Is it just me or does this happen EVERY year now? At least it seems that way here in the lower midwest… Every year it gets incredibly warm for long periods of time way too early. It didn’t used to be like this, everything was pretty seasonal for the most part. The trees flower out when we all know an inevitable hard frost is still to come. I can’t remember the last time I got fruit from my fruit trees or hardy kiwis because of this. I give up, chopping them down and planting evergreens!

Thank you for all the info! We are experiencing late freezing temperatures here in Hermiston OR,I already planted a medium size Weigela (Couldn’t resist getting it since it was so full of pink flowers!), I’ve been covering the plant during the night, temperature got as low as 25 F. Tonight it will be the last night with freezing temperatures around the 29F. (Crossing fingers to be the last day with low temp) The thing is that the plant is losing most of the flowers, some of them are still attached to the plant but I know they are dead. But the plant has like no leaves at all, it was all flowers! What can I do for my plant?? She is going so bald

By the time you get this response, the worst is over. If the plant survives these past cold days, it should recover. Basically it went from a comfy, cozy, climate controlled environment at the nursery and garden center, to the harsh realities of real life at your house. That’s a drastic change for a plant that hasn’t had the chance to acclimate to the abrupt changes. Not your fault. It happens. And it sounds like you did the right thing once you planted it. Good luck.

Do your comments about perennials also apply to newly planted perennials? I bought “baby” perennials from the Internet. They’ve looked great for the last two weeks (arrived NOT dormant) but now they are predicting a late season Nor-easter that might plunge our temperatures into the 20s. What would you do if you were me ? If they are all going to die I’ll take an hour and dig them all out of my garden before the weekend.

Hi Leah. You can take a couple approaches here. First, do nothing and hope for the best. In this case, you risk dieback to the roots. But it depends on what type of perennials they are (I trust hardy for your area). It is unfortunate timing that you got plants that are now in active growth. I suspect you will get dieback of the tender foliage at least. Have you mulched the area around your plants? That may help with protecting the roots. Although the roots stand a much better chance of survival. And if you do get dieback, hopefully the roots are fine and will send up new growth once these plants establish in the ground. Keep in mind that may take a while since they’re new plants and need to set roots first before sending up top growth.

Second, you could do some light protecting. If it’s possible to cover them with a sheet or plastic or light blanket, so that they are insulated from frost while trapping ground heat. That could make a big difference in perhaps protecting the foliage and keeping the ground around the roots warmer. But again, I’m not as worried about the roots. And if the roots survive, even if the foliage dies back, you should still be able to see new growth after recovery as mentioned above.
If you take this route, BE SURE to remove the cover – especially if it’s PLASTIC, before the sun emerges for the day. Otherwise your plants could cook, even on a cold day.

Three: You could dig them up but I don’t think I would go to that trouble unless you want to ensure your plants aren’t affected and can establish fastest once weather warms a bit.
Good luck!

Jean Thompson says

I have daffodil bulbs I just put in in Oct. and they are starting to break through here in Ohio on Feb. 5th, also my hydrangeas are getting buds and peonies pushing through ground. Should I cover these with mulch and cover the bushes with burlap, I know we are going to get slammed with cold weather before this is all over?

Hi Jean. Don’t worry your bulbs emerging from the ground at all. They are amazingly resilient. And it’s too early to worry about your flowering shrubs. The buds should still be tight and resilient to the cold at this point. The bigger risk is a very late cold snap, once those buds have started to emerge and tender growth is then exposed to the cold. That’s when you might need to take pre-emptive action. For now, you get to relax though.

Jerome Eady says

I am a lanscaper and work for customers taking care of their yard. I noticed the last 2 years some scrubs, bushes, and treees will not leafout. It grow half of leafs but the other half will not leafs out.

Either the branches are dead or some of the roots are. I would examine the plants more closely to see if you can identify a point on each branch that shows live buds that will emerge in spring. if so, prune about 1/4 inch above the first set of live buds and remove all dead branches accordingly. Alternatively, you can wait until later this spring when you can clearly see what has leafed out vs. what has not. When you cut back the branches, you’ll be able to tell by looking at the branch remaining on the shrub, that it looks alive, vs. the part you remove that will be woody and no living tissue. It’s easy to see the difference once you make the cut.
If it’s a root issue, you may need to dig up a plant to investigate what may be causing the problem. Usually it’s an area around that part of the roots that isn’t getting water for some reason.

I purchased a “dormant” Keiffer Pear tree from a big box store in spring. Planted it, and waited for it to leaf out. It never did. I left it in the ground, and it still looks healthy this fall, just never seemed to break dormancy. Scratch test still reveals green under the bark on all branches – there is no die-back. I don’t know if it was exposed to freezing temps after being delivered to store, and before I brought it home. My question is – Is it possible for this tree to break dormancy next spring if it never broke dormancy this year? Thank you

It is “possible” Kimberly. The fact that the scratch test is showing signs of life tells me it just didn’t develop enough roots fast enough to come out of dormancy this summer. So as long as you can spare the room, let’s leave it alone and see what happens next spring. Make sure to add a 2-3 inch layer of mulch a few feet out from the trunk in all directions and continue to water it periodically until winter. The roots should still be growing and you may be pleasantly surprised next spring.
Now, one more thing while I’m thinking about it. We want new growth up in the branches, NOT emerging from the ground as suckers. That is likely to happen but what we want to see if dormant bud break well above the ground. Good luck and please keep me posted.

We have a 9 year old curly willow tree that was hit buy a last spring frost. Leaves we’re starting on it but were damaged by the frost. Will it survive and come back next spring??

If it’s just a frost, then I would say yes Larry, the tree should survive. However, you may have limbs that were damaged or killed. If so, cut those back to living tissue next winter, about 4 weeks before spring. You should see new growth.
BTW, since it is now September and you’re referring to a spring frost, I’m assuming you have not seen new growth replace the damaged leaves this summer? If not, then I do think the limbs of that part of the tree were killed. You can tell by cutting back starting from the tip to a point where you think you may have live tissue. Look at the branch after you cut it. Do you see any signs of life, such as green coloring under the bark? You can also lightly scratch the surface of a limb to expose the layer under the bark before you make any cuts. If you see green tissue, that is a good sign. Otherwise, if it’s brown and brittle, it’s dead at that point, but not necessarily further down the branch.

Laura Wamsley says

Watching the temp drop as I write this. Very helpful and hopeful info! Thanks!

Joe, I have a young maple tree where the top died this winter. The lower branches are leaving. I also have a young conifer where the top got broken off. Now the whole tree is doing very poorly for the last year. Should I replace these two trees?

Many times the trees will recover below the dieback area. New growth will sprout to replace the dead area. But if the older area is definitely dead, you should cut it out, back to where new leaf buds are evident. If you’re not in a hurry, that would be the cheapest option. Replacing them is always an option but may not be necessary if you have the time to investigate the first option.

Linda M. Pipkin says

I fear for my roses- we had a mild December and much of January so they all began to grow new leaves, then the first week of February we got slammed with a 4-day hard freeze, with several nights below zero. Now they look dead. Luckily, none of my bulbs were sprouting anyway, so hopefully they’ll be okay.

Interesting post – I just made a similar one laying out a strategy where warm season crops shade cool weather crops.
We have had 25 to 45 degree swings from one day to the next, and this has gone on through the last two ‘winters’ and ‘springs’ we’ve had.
Today, in the middle of February, I have ripe cherimoyas (due to ripen in June), and while some pomegranates are leafing out of dormancy, others have not yet lost last year’s leaves.

10 Easy Ways to Protect Plants From Frost

From watering before a cold snap to using cloths to cover your plants, this article will share with you 10 easy ways to help protect your plants from the ravages of frost.

How to Protect Plants From Frost

One day it's 65°F and sunny, and the next it's 32°F with snow on the ground. Yep, that's spring—a magical time of year filled with burgeoning life and fluctuating thermometers.

For many of us, spring presents one of the year's greatest gardening challenges: protecting tender new growth from damage due to cold. Frost damage, freezing death, root damage, and frost cracks on bark are four primary negative effects of severe drops in the temperature.

In early spring, when the threat of frost is especially great, closely monitoring weather conditions via weather radio, TV, and websites for reports of expected cold spells is imperative. That way, when frost is predicted, you can prepare for it. It's also a good idea to periodically check the temperature at ground level near your plants to see how cold it is for them and whether or not you need to do something about it.

This article will explain what frost is, how freezing temperatures affect plants, and what you can do about it. It will also provide easy and effective suggestions for protecting plants from frost, methods that can be applied to tender food crops like tomatoes and citrus trees, delicate potted plants like succulents and begonias, as well as other plants susceptible to extreme cold. Read on to find out how to protect your green friends from frost damage, freezing temperatures, and the cold hands of winter.

10 Easy Tips for Protecting Plants From Frost

Here are 10 easy, practical methods I've used to reduce frost's impact on my garden:

  1. Choose cold-hardy plants
  2. Place plants in frost-resistant spots
  3. Avoid frost pockets
  4. Harden off seedlings
  5. Cover plants before nightfall
  6. Protect plants with cloches
  7. Warm plants with water jugs
  8. Water before a frost
  9. Bring potted plants indoors
  10. Wrap fruit trees

Continue reading to find out more details about how to apply these methods in your own garden.

Many varieties of pansy are cold hardy.

1. Choose Cold-Hardy Plants

Some vegetables and flowers are hardy souls that thrive in spite of (or sometimes because of) the cold. These kinds of plants are known as "hardy" because they can tolerate some amount of short-term freezing. By contrast, plants that are killed or severely injured by freezing temperatures are known as "tender."

Crocuses often push their way through snow to bloom, and a spring storm rarely gives narcissus, tulips, grape hyacinths, or pansies pause. There are also a wide range of tasty edibles that are resistant to frost, including:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Calendula (pot marigold)
  • Carrots
  • Chives
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Peas
  • Radish
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

Experts at your local nursery are great sources of information about hardy plants appropriate to your zone. Native plants, particularly native perennials, will most likely be the best choices.

Which plants are sensitive to frost?

  • Tender plants such as avocados, fuchsia, bougainvillea, begonias, impatiens, geraniums and succulents
  • Edibles such as citrus trees, tropical plants, tomatoes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, cucumber, okra, eggplant, corn, and peppers
  • Spring-blooming shrubs and trees such as cherry, azalea, and rhododendron
  • Tender perennials like canna, elephant ear, caladium, and dahlia. (Before a killing frost, consider digging these plants up and storing them in a dry, cool place.)

Don't Strand Plants

Smart placement near other plants, benches, or walls—especially if these structures are south- or west-facing—will go a long way toward protecting plants from being damaged by frost.

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2. Place Plants in Frost-Resistant Spots

It's as true for plants as it is for real estate: location, location, location. Set out seedlings and store-bought spring plants in areas that are less likely to experience damaging cold.

As cold air moves to lower ground, it will pass by plants located on high ground or slopes. That's why it's best to place seedlings and other plants that are susceptible to frost in these elevated locations.

Placing plants by benches, fences, and walls—particularly if they are south- or west-facing—can provide additional protection, especially if the structures are dark in color. During the day, the structures absorb heat. Throughout the night, they radiate that heat, keeping plants warmer than they'd otherwise be. Nearby shrubbery also provides protection from light frosts.

What is frost?

Frost generally occurs on clear and calm nights, where there are few to no clouds to reflect warmth back to the ground and little to no wind to disperse warmer patches of air. The cold air then settles down to the lowest point, while the hot air rises up and away from the ground.

On these nights, frost can happen even if the temperature on your thermometer does not read below freezing. As long as the air temperatures at ground level dip below 32°F, ice crystals can still form on plants. This, in turn, disrupts the movement of fluids within the plant, depriving its tissues of water and drying it out. This is why leaves damaged by frost shrivel up and turn dark brown or black. If left in freezing temperatures for long durations of time without much protection, plants can easily die from desiccation.

Note: Frost can also occur when there is wind, but it is a chilling wind that then brings in even colder air, making matters worse.

Dianthus can serve as a beautiful flowering ground cover, but don't plant it in a frost pocket if you want pretty blooms!

3. Avoid Frost Pockets

Frost pockets are depressions in the ground. Cold air drains into these "pockets," and it can't get out. When this happens, plants located in the depressed areas can suffer frost damage. Avoid sowing seeds and bedding new plants in these low places.

Check the Ground-Level Temperature

Temperatures higher up may vary from those lower to the ground. In other words, just because an elevated thermometer reads above 32°F doesn't necessarily mean it isn't below that at ground level.

4. Harden Off Seedlings

Before setting out seedlings, acclimate them to the outdoors by gradually exposing them to conditions outside. This process, called hardening off, will help you grow stronger plants that are more likely to withstand the vicissitudes of early spring.

Begin the hardening off process about 14 days before transplanting. When the weather's mild and above 45°F, place the seedlings outside during the day in a warm, shady spot that's protected from the wind. At night, bring them indoors.

After two weeks, the seedlings will be stronger, sturdier plants, ready for transplanting.

To harden them off before transplanting, seedlings like these four o'clocks are set outside in a warm, shady spot.

The Dirt Farmer

5. Cover Plants Before Nightfall

If you’re going to cover up your plants before a hard frost, do so before dusk. If you wait until darkness falls, most of the stored heat in your garden will have dissipated.

No matter what type of cover you use, make sure that it extends down to the soil on each side. Do not leave any openings for warmth to escape. If you can, it's also advisable to use stakes to keep material, especially plastic, from touching the foliage. Do not affix or gather your cover to the trunk, however, as this will prevent the heat radiating up out of the soil from reaching the plant. (See diagram below for proper covering.)

In the morning, after the frost has thawed, remove the covers. Failing to do so could cause the plant to break dormancy and start actively growing again, which would make it even more susceptible to frost damage in the future.

What can I cover my plants with to protect them from frost?

Here are just some of the items you can use to cover your tender plants:

  • Bed sheets or blankets
  • Drop cloths
  • An inverted flower pot or bucket
  • Milk jugs with the bottom cut out
  • Frost cloths (These can protect some plants to temperatures as low as 20°F.)
  • Garden blankets (These are good for garden rows or raised beds and will protect tender spring flowers and vegetables from cold en masse.)

It's also important to remember that covers don’t have to be elaborate or expensive in order to work. A row of sticks with newspaper, cardboard, or sheets and towels tented over them will do just fine. If you don’t have sticks, lay the covers directly over your plants. This, too, will prevent heat loss.

Make sure to place your covers completely over your plants and let them drape all the way to the ground—don't tie the cover to the trunk, otherwise the heat radiating up out of the soil won't be able to warm up your plant.

6. Protect Plants With Cloches

Strictly speaking, cloches are removable glass or plastic covers that protect plants from cold. Sometimes called bells or bell jars, most fit over individual plants, but some are large enough to cover a row. Like other covers, cloches should be placed over plants before the sun goes down and removed in the morning after the frost has thawed.

Glass cloches are highly ornamental. When you're not using them outside for frost protection, you can use them indoors over humidity-loving houseplants like violets.

You can also use plastic cloches, which are generally less expensive than glass ones. But because they are lightweight, they must be staked into the ground to prevent them from blowing away in high winds.

Note: Since cloches used for cold protection are temporary measures, you may opt to create your own makeshift versions. Flower pots, Mason jars, baskets, and milk jugs with the bottoms removed can all be placed over plants to shield them from freeze and frost.

Keep Cloches Staked Down

Stake lightweight cloches into the ground to prevent them from blowing over.

7. Warm Plants With Water Jugs

Fill plastic milk jugs with water and place them in the sun, allowing them to soak up heat during the day. Before dusk, set the jugs around your plants and throw a cover over them. The water in the jugs will lose heat more slowly than the soil and the air, and the warmth it emits will help protect your plants from the cold.

Sage in bloom against a background of Reemay over spring vegetables in our raised garden bed.

8. Water Before a Frost

It may sound crazy, but watering around plants the night before a spring frost can actually protect them from freezing. During the night, the wet soil will release moisture into the air, raising the temperature and keeping plants warmer.

Watering before a cold snap will reduce the likelihood of frost damage.

Ground Hanging Baskets

Place hanging baskets on the ground before covering them so they can benefit from heat rising up from the soil.

9. Bring Potted Plants Indoors

When frost is predicted, bring planters and hanging baskets inside. The roots of potted plants experience more severe temperature fluctuations than those planted in the ground. They'll reach lower temperatures, too. That's why potted plants are especially susceptible to root damage due to cold. It can cause their roots—particularly those near the edge of the pot—to turn spongy and black. Although root damage may not kill the plant, it will stunt its growth.

Just make sure when you bring potted plants inside that they don't have any insects or pests on them and aren't currently suffering from any diseases. This will not only potentially exacerbate the problem, but it could also infect your other plants.

If you opt to cover a hanging basket rather than bring it inside, place it on the ground first, and then place the cover over the basket to take advantage of the ground's relative warmth.

10. Wrap Fruit Trees

If you grow fruit trees, be sure to wrap the trunks in the fall with burlap strips or tree wrap. Most fruit trees have thin barks that are susceptible to splitting when temperatures fluctuate dramatically. Tree wrap will prevent this splitting, which is known as frost crack.

It's often a good idea to use multiple layers of cloth or weatherproof paper while still keeping the wrapping a bit loose. This provides more effective insulation. You should also extend the wrapping all the way to the ground and at least as high up as the lower limbs or branches. (See diagram below for proper technique.)

If necessary, this wrapping can be left on for the majority of the winter season.

When wrapping the trunk of a fruit tree, it's wise to use multiple layers of cloth—while still keeping the wrapping a bit loose—and extend the wrapping from all the way down to the ground to at least as high as the lowest limbs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here is some additional information regarding questions frequently asked about how to protect your plants from frost:

What factors affect the chances that a plant will die from frost?

  • Cloud coverage: If there are more clouds in the sky to absorb and reflect heat back down to the earth, then your plants will stand a better chance of fending off frosts.
  • Wind: Without enough wind to mix the rising warm air with the falling cold air, your plants will be more susceptible to the cold of the night.
  • Humidity: Higher humidity raises the dew point and helps slow the rate of temperature change, decreasing the likelihood that frost will form on your plants. (This explains why dry deserts can shift from high heat to freezing cold so quickly.)
  • Soil properties: The sun warms the soil during the day, and this heat then radiates out into the cooler atmosphere of the night. If your soil is deep, loose, heavy, and fertile, then it will release more moisture into the air. By contrast, thin, sandy, or nutrient-poor soil will not release as much moisture. Additionally, heavily mulched soil will prevent more moisture from releasing into the atmosphere, thus providing less protection on colder nights.
  • Proximity of structures and other plants: Without other nearby plants and structures to provide shelter from cold winds and radiate back heat to your plants, they will be more vulnerable to frost.
  • Age of the plant: Younger plants that are still actively growing or flowering will be more vulnerable to colder temperatures.

What are the different kinds of frost, and what do they mean?

The following table breaks down the different kinds of freezes and frosts, as well as the potential effects for plants exposed to even a few hours of freezing temperatures:

Types of Frosts and Freezes and Their Effects

Light Freeze/Light Frost

Ice forms on the outside. Will likely only significantly harm or kill tender plants.

Moderate Freeze/Kiling Frost

Ice forms on the inside of the plant, which causes plant cells to burst. Will cause significant destruction to most foliage and vegetation. Fruit blossoms and semi-hardy plants will suffer extensive damage and potentially death. Even root-hardy perennials will be hurt.

Will cause severe damage to most all plants, leading to desiccation and death.

In general, spring bulbs like daffodils, tulips and anemones (pictured), which are planted in autumn, are cold-hardy plants that don't require additional frost protection.

What are the first and last frost dates for my area?

The last frost date in the spring and the first frost date in the fall indicate how long your growing season will be. You need to know these dates so that you can determine when to start seeds indoors and when to purchase and plant nursery plants.

For freeze and frost dates in the U.S., you can visit the Farmer's Almanac or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Freeze-date tables, as well as other frost/freeze information, are also available through your local state cooperative extension office.

What do I do if I see frost damage?

Just because you see frost damage does not necessarily mean you need to take any drastic action. Many plants can be surprisingly resilient and might very well bounce back come springtime.

Your best bet is to wait until the weather begins to get warmer again (usually around March) and see if any new leaves sprout.

Should I prune frost-damaged growth?

It is definitely not advisable to begin pruning frost-damaged growth until the spring for a variety of reasons:

  • Those damaged limbs and leaves will continue to trap heat within the canopy and help the plant make it through the winter.
  • Damage is often not as bad as it may seem at first glance, and new growth may yet still emerge out of an area you might have thought was already dead.
  • Pruning damaged limbs might stimulate new growth from your plant, and that new growth will be especially susceptible to frost (as well as your entire plant).

Only once new growth has sprouted from your plant in the following spring should you begin to prune dead or damaged limbs.

What doesn't help protect plants from frost?

Though you might have heard that these methods are effective, the following are almost certain to make matters worse:

  • Large fires: This creates an updraft of hot air above the plants, which they cannot access. It also sucks in cold air from surrounding areas that could make the ground temperature even colder for your plants.
  • Mulching: Though this can be of temporary help for situations such as trying to keep your deciduous fruit tree from prematurely breaking dormancy, it not only prevents the soil from capturing heat from the sun but also blocks much of that heat from rising up from that soil to help warm your plant. (If you do decide to use mulch for a short cold period, be sure to remove it once the danger of frost is over.)

Works Cited

  1. Bradley, Lucy (1998, April). Frost Protection. University of Arizona Extension. Retrieved on 19 October 2018.
  2. Mason, Sandra. Anticipating Frost – What to Do with Frost Sensitive Plants. University of Illinois Extension. Retrieved on 19 October 2018.
  3. Brown, Faith. How to Protect Plants from Frost. University of California, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Retrieved on 19 October 2018.
  4. Day, Julie. How to Protect Your Garden from Frost and Freeze. Today's Homeowner. Retrieved on 19 October 2018.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: It is supposed to rain and then frost. Can I still cover flowers with a towel even though it will get wet first then frost?

Answer: Yes, but you will need to use stakes or something to prop up the towels so that their weight when wet will not break down your plants. Also, try to get the covering all the way to the ground.

Question: Can I use garbage bags to cover plants to protect from frost?

Answer: No, don’t use plastic. It conducts cold and will cause damage to your plants.

Question: Are crabapple trees susceptible to frost at 29 degrees?

Answer: Although crabapple trees vary in cold hardiness by variety, they are susceptible to spring frost and can incur damage if the frost hits them as they're budding out of winter dormancy.

Question: Can I put rocks from a fire in the ground near my plant and cover it with a sheet as well?

Answer: I know hot rocks work for heating greenhouses and keeping campers warm at night, so I image they would work to protect plants in a make-shift tent. I would just be careful about how close to the plant I put the hot rocks. Good luck and be careful! If it works, please share your experience with us.

Question: Do pansies need to be protected from frost?

Answer: Pansies planted in the fall will last all winter into spring in Zones 6 and above. I believe some varieties do well in the colder zones as well. The leaves of ours sometimes darken due to hard frost, but no, your pansies should do fine without protection. I believe there's a picture of one of ours in the article above in bloom through spring snow.

Question: Can I use the chard in my garden after a deep frost?

Answer: Swiss chard is a frost-hardy plant, and cold weather will actually improve its flavor. Temperatures under 15 degrees, however, will kill it. If you're expecting temps that low, you should cover it with something like Reemay.

Question: I have a patio shade that goes all the way down to the floor. Can it help protect my plants from frost?

Answer: It sounds like it. Would your plants be covered on all sides? If not, you might want to give them a good watering and cover them lightly with newspaper, a sheet, or Reemay if you have it.

Question: Do you recommend watering a cold sensitive palm tree with hot water on a cold night?

Answer: I don't see much benefit in it. From what I've read, hot water stimulates growth but doesn't increase ground temperature. It's the evaporation that reduces frost.

Question: Can I use glass mason jars to cover new vegetable plants from frost or snow?

Answer: Sure! Use the jar just like a cloche.

© 2011 Jill Spencer

Comments

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on May 06, 2020:

Very useful. This spring I did the warm water jugs, but did not have a cover. Now, I know. Thanks for a great article.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 24, 2019:

Hi Merit! Yes, if you used hot water rather than warm (about 90 degrees F), you could damage the plants you're trying to protect. It might be interesting to experiment, one bed with water you've warmed, another with sun-warmed water, both covered to preserve the warmth overnight.

Merit on May 24, 2019:

Hi! First off, thanks for answering my question earlier! I have another question. If you filled the milk jugs with hot water, is it possible to ever have too hot of water? Could hot water kill a plant?

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 21, 2019:

Hi, Merit. Sure, you could do that.

Merit on May 21, 2019:

For the water jugs, couldn't you just use warm water, instead of warming them up in the sun?

This is a great article by the way, and has helped me with my biomimicry project!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on March 02, 2018:

I'll hope for the best, too, Deborah!

Deborah Riley on March 02, 2018:

Will water my wildflowers tonight and pray they will be ok! SC

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 20, 2018:

Thanks for commenting, Gregg and Lily! Hope your plants are doing well.

Gregg Friedman MD on October 29, 2017:

I have to bring in my potted Red Lipstick Palm anytime the temperature drops below 60 degrees F. Thanks for your tips with dealing with low temperatures. By Gregg L. Friedman MD

Lily on October 18, 2017:

I found your inventions of the jugs are extremely useful. Thank you for sharing 🙂

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on July 11, 2017:

Hi Sarah! Wet the soil around your seedlings well before nightfall. Then cover them baskets, bowls, etc.– homemade cloches. If you cover your seedlings with cloth or newspaper, be sure to stake the covering up with sticks and then weight the edges with rocks to prevent the little plants from getting squashed by the cover. Remove the covering the next morning. Good luck to you!

sarah on July 10, 2017:

I need your help!!I have little seedlings and we are getting huge frost's and I don't know what to do, because we do not live anywhere near a town and I am not keen on going to town. What would be the best option to save my seedlings??

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on December 26, 2016:

Yes, I've heard of people who have orchards using those. Thanks for the suggestion! –Jill

Jerry on December 26, 2016:

What about using propane heaters, like the old 'smudge pots'?

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on May 16, 2016:

Hi Tina. I don't know! Are you going to protect them from the frost? Try one of the strategies above. The easiest is probably to throw something over them before night falls. Good luck to you!

Tina Whitt on May 15, 2016:

We have a freeze warning. will my poppies be okay they are pretty big. thanks

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 09, 2016:

Hi eugbug! Thanks for your comments and for sharing the article. The bubble wrap method sounds like a great way to repurpose, and the hot water bottles sound a lot like the milk jug idea. Use what you have, huh? I'm so glad we have not had extended freezes here. I'm sure you were heartsick over the losses, esp. the orange tree. Even our native plants, I think, would be hard pressed to survive a long period of temps that low. Thanks again for stopping by! Jill

Eugene Brennan from Ireland on April 09, 2016:

This is very useful Jill, so I'll tweet it! Bubblewrap is supposed to be good for wrapping plants but anything fleecy that doesn't soak up water and lose its insulating properties is equally good. I've used some hot water bottles on occasions for keeping plants warm on cold nights!

I lost several shrubs including a fig, olive and camelia during the winter of 2010 when temperatures dropped to -15 C (5F) during an extended snowy period. My biggest loss was a 25 year old orange tree which I had grown from a pip. Citrus trees usually withstand some frost damage, but if temperatures are sub-zero day and night for weeks on end (which was the case here in 2010) even plants under cover will probably freeze. Maybe those heating cables which are used for frost protection of pipes would be worth trying out?

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 15, 2014:

Hi S.M. Thanks for leaving a comment. An old aquarium would make a great makeshift cloche. What a wonderful way to repurpose! All the best,

S.M. on April 15, 2014:

You can throw an empty aquarium over the plants too. A lot of gardeners are fish addicts too! We have a few tanks around as emergency spares. Lucky people that have a 33gal. or bigger, it's 36 inches long and 16-18" deep. 🙂

There are often second hand tanks that go for cheap at lawn sales, especially if they have a crack. 🙂

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on March 10, 2013:

Thanks, kikalina! I need to get out and take some new pics now. Our crocuses are blooming and the daffodils are just about to open. Can't wait! All the best, Jill

kikalina from Europe on March 10, 2013:

Amazing photos. Great hub.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 24, 2013:

Hi purl3agony! Don't fret about the snow too much. Unless it was so heavy that it broke down your plants, snow will keep the ground warm and protect plants. (Scrape it away, and you might see green underneath!) It's hard frosts and thaws that do the real damage.

Hi John! Doh! I should have mentioned leaves. I use them in our herb garden, which is away from the house, but not in the surrounding flowerbeds as they attract mice and, subsequently, ticks. Nice to hear from you, John! Think I'll add your idea to the hub. Thanks! –Jill

Joanie Ruppel from Texas on February 24, 2013:

We also use leaves to cover our plants. I have purchased old sheets at garage sales and use them as covers in case an early frost is in the air.

Donna Herron from USA on February 24, 2013:

Pinning this now, but wish I had studied this before our first snow last week 🙁 I'll be ready for next year 🙂

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 23, 2013:

Appreciate the support, Prasetio. Thanks!

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 22, 2013:

Very informative hub. I love gardening and you have wonderful tips here. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 22, 2013:

Hi ytsenoh. Good timing, huh? Stay warm–and thanks for reading! –Jill

Cathy from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri on February 22, 2013:

In light of the snow we just had (. ), I love this hub. You do such a great job with your images and always well-written. Thank you.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 22, 2013:

Thanks, Peggy! I well remember how warm it was all year long when I lived in Texas. I actually missed the cold weather and would have given anything for a good snow. Still, sometimes I'd like to be able to grow tropical plants outside. (: Take care, Jill

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 22, 2013:

I well remember those snowbound days when living in Wisconsin. In Houston we only had to cover our more tropical plants less than 10 times for predicted frosts this past winter and our average last day is generally the end of February. We just use old sheets. I'll be able to wash them up soon and store them in our shed for next winter. Your tip of watering before a freeze is valid. Even fruit grove owners do that to help protect their crops. Good hub! Up, useful, interesting and will share. Beautiful photos!

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on February 22, 2013:

Thanks for your comments, Glimmer Twin Fan! I updated this to improve the layout and add a few new pictures. Covering, uncovering, racing around–whew! Spring can be a wild ride for gardeners! –Jill (:

Claudia Mitchell on February 22, 2013:

Saw this on pinterest and had to read. Written before I joined hubpages. This is great for me. Last spring we covered and uncovered a dozen times. Especially my peonies. This is really useful. Taking my daughter to the busstop this am I saw my snowdrops poking through the ice. Gave me hope that spring is on it's way.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on April 01, 2011:

Oh, no! Another snowbound gardener. I'm sure you are sick of the cold. Thanks for reading! –DF

moonlake from America on March 31, 2011:

Enjoyed your hub. We still have to much snow will be awhile before we can start planting. Please no more snow storms we're sick of winter.

Jill Spencer (author) from United States on March 31, 2011:

Wow, and I thought we had it bad here in MD, where a snowstorm is supposed to hit us again on April 1. Hope you see green soon!

Bob Ewing from New Brunswick on March 31, 2011:

Still a foot of snow in the backyard, nothing peeping out yet, good tips here, though.