Winter protection crucial for plants

Plumbago, for one, needs some freeze cover.

Some years, we get to slide by with few days below freezing, but just one night left out in the cold and unprotected like the Snow Queen can prove fatal to some of your most beautiful plants. There are some tips and tricks to protecting your beauties from the harshest of days.

Some days, the daily low temperatures in our area have been dropping to near-freezing, so it’s a good time for us to all be aware of steps to take to help ensure that our plants don’t get damaged or killed as those temperatures continue to drop. You may not realize that many plants here can be damaged without a hard freeze and with temperatures above freezing.

Container grown plants are more susceptible to cold damage because their roots are more exposed. You may have already ‘lost’ your striking bougainvillea and hibiscus from this summer but you can protect other tropical and semi-tropical plants. Most young plants are sensitive to extra cold nights.

There are a number of ways we in the Golden Triangle can “winterize” our plants, according to Texas A&M AgriLife:

Water deeply in the late fall and don’t forget to water your outdoor plants all winter long. Watering plants thoroughly before freezing temperature helps keep the ground warmer as moist ground stays warmer than dry ground.

Some plants can be brought indoors or moved into a protected outdoor area, such as a covered patio, under the eaves of the house or near the base of a large tree. Extra-hardy plants, such as Dwarf Yaupon holly, Dwarf Burford holly, aspidistra (cast-iron plant) and nandina will do well unless there is a prolonged freeze. You can use these plants to help insulate more tender potted plants by nestling more sensitive plants down under these.

Cover plants with plastic film only over an added layer of other wrapping materials like burlap or cloth. During cold weather, plant tissue can “burn” wherever it comes into direct contact with plastic.

Make sure plant coverings drape all the way down to the ground and are adequately secured with rocks, boards, bricks or soil to keep wind out and allow heat retention.

Use mulch to protect lower stems and roots from cold. Mulching gives an extra layer of protection that helps plants retain moisture and stay warmer.

Consider buying a “hoop tunnel” or other covered structure for plants and place open jugs of water inside to add heat through moisture.

We all may want to consider future planting with native plants. These are time tested to live in our area. They are often more cold tolerant.

It may take a minute to cover and protect some of your sensitive outdoor plants when the weatherman gives us the possible freeze warning, but as most of us know, when those plants are gone, they are gone.