Gardening with Laurie: Protect tender plants from the cold

By Laurie Garretson
Dec. 26, 2013 at 6:26 a.m.

Living in this part of the world means that many of us gardeners take advantage of the tropical-like temperatures we usually have, especially during the summer months.

Many of us love growing our hibiscus and palm trees. I wonder what the weather is going to be like over the next couple of months? It's looking like we might have a truly cold winter.

Here are some cold weather tips to help protect your landscape when the cold does arrive:

Plants are considered hardy or tender. Hardy plants, once established, are able to take temperatures of 32 degrees or below with no damage. There are degrees of hardiness, though. Some hardy plants can withstand temperatures down to 18 degrees, whereas other hardy plants can only take temperatures down to the mid-20s. Most of our commonly planted trees and shrubs are hardy to about 14 degrees.

Tender plants can be severally damaged or killed when temperatures drop to 32 degrees or below. Since the ground in our area does not ever freeze, it is possible for some tender type plants to come back from their root systems.

Several factors can attribute to plants being damaged from cold weather. The overall health of a plant will make a difference as to the plants' cold hardiness. Regular fertilizing and watering plus being planted in the right growing conditions will all play a big role in the amount of damage a plant receives.

When the temperature suddenly drops to the low 30s after being relatively mild, even hardy plants can suffer. When temperatures slowly drop, a plant has time to harden off and to be better able to withstand the cold.

The location of the plant can also make a difference in how much damage it gets. Planting tender plants in sheltered areas that will provide protection from the north winds help to lessen cold damage. Planting under tree canopies also helps to minimize damage from the cold.

The longer cold temperatures last, the more damage the plant gets. As time goes by, any amount of heat that is stored in the plant or the soil will be lost.

The length of time it stays cold and the overall hardiness of a plant are two of the main factors as to how the plant will withstand the cold.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.



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