An Empty Linen Closet and Warm Plants

Frost-Sensitive Plants

You would think that living in the larger Phoenix area means that we do not get cold weather.  That is what I thought….before I moved here.  I was surprised to find that we get quite a bit colder in the winter then Southern California where I grew up.

Well, the cold weather has certainly arrived at my house.  Last night it dropped into the 20’s with two more nights of the same temps to come. 

I do like an excuse to pull out my big sweaters, but I must confess that I just love the comfort of wearing old jeans, slippers and a hooded sweatshirt around the house.  

Right now in my closet, I have two sweatshirts….one from my first college, Westmont (they have some of the most beautiful landscaping).  The other is my USC (University of Southern California) sweatshirt that my dad bought for me 4 years ago.  I did not attend USC, but my dad did and he was a die hard SC fan until his death 3 years ago.   I always feel closer to him whenever I put on my USC sweatshirt which is why I am wearing it now.

What I do not have in my closet is a ASU (Arizona State University) sweatshirt.  It is kind of sad really…..I mean I graduated from ASU and it is only about 30 minutes from my home.  **I think I need to add this to my Christmas list – what do you think about a zip-up sweatshirt with ASU across the front?

This morning as I drove through my neighborhood, I found an interesting assortment of items from my neighbor’s linen closets decorating their front gardens.

Frost-Sensitive Plants

Frost-Sensitive Plants

Most of us know what happens if you do not cover your frost-sensitive plants when temps dip into the lower 30’s….they turn brown.  

Bougainvillea and Lantana are some of the most common plants that will suffer from frost damage if not protected.  To be honest, it is no big deal if you do not want to cover your plants.  You just have to be okay with them looking crispy and brown until spring begins warmer temperatures.

Frost Damaged Lantana, north of Phoenix

 Frost Damaged Lantana, north of Phoenix

Most years, I do not bother to cover my Lantana and I never cover my Bougainvillea and Yellow Bells shrubs.  But for some reason, this year I decided that I did not want to look at brown Lantana and so I covered them.

Frost-Sensitive Plants

I covered the parts of my Gold Lantana that are not protected by the overhang of my house.  It is so nice to find a purpose for my mismatched towels in addition to using them for washing our cars.

Frost-Sensitive Plants

Can you tell that I borrowed my son’s old bedroom sheets as well?  Kai had progressed from Superman sheets up to Transformers.

You will probably not be surprised to find that I have emptied much of my linen closet.  I have not included photos of my other covered shrubs, where I even brought out some old blankets.

Ideally, you should take off the coverings in the morning and put back on in the evening, but I am too lazy to do that and it really doesn’t hurt my plants to have them on for 2 – 3 days in a row.  Any longer then that though, I take them off during the day.  Phoenix averages 15 days of frost, but in outlying areas – including where I live, it can be more. 

Frost-Sensitive Plants

Right now, I like the idea of protecting my Lantana, but if we get a lot of freezing temps, I may give up and make my peace with having brown plants for a few months ;-).

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
13 replies
  1. Ami
    Ami says:

    ooh, hope your garden can survive the frost weather. We are having the best time of the year in Florida. In another note, I am coming to Pheonix for a business meeting next week, I better check the weather before coming, so that I can be prepared 🙂

  2. debsgarden
    debsgarden says:

    I think the brown lantana in your photo is quite lovely! I am way too lazy to cover my plants when we are expecting frost, but I admire your diligence!

    By the way, my boys once proudly wore ASU sun devil t-shirts, souvenirs from one of my husband's business trips to Phoenix.

  3. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Hi Noelle, it looks funny to see all those different colored towels on the hallway and the gardens of the locality. When we were younger during the old days the old folks in the provinces cut top portions of hedge plants so they can dry the laundry in them, just like the placements of your towels. hahaha!

  4. Darla
    Darla says:

    We have some areas that are covered as well. I am looking forward to seeing my plants sleep for the winter, it's been a long hot dry summer for them.

  5. Floridagirl
    Floridagirl says:

    These photos look like my neighborhood in January. LOL. Here in my own garden, though, you're likely to see old Ninja Turtle and Spiderman bedding. : )

    Ooh, I have to share that my word verification is "VANDA" — how awesome is that? I love vandas!

  6. Martha Z
    Martha Z says:

    I didn't know the lantana would be damaged by frost, mine is now brown. I'm hoping that the citrus I planted this year will be ok, I did cover them. The weather in Sacramento is a lot different than the San Fernado Valley and I am still learning.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I think it was December 2006/January 2007 that we had a major frost here in Phoenix – we, of course, had been visiting the grandchildren in Texas. We were surprised to come home to purple-brown colored leaves and an awful smell. We had 7 ficus, each about 30 ft. Only one survived. So, since we hadn't had frost here in a few years, this month we put in six to replace the old ones. Yep, we've been out there the past few nights wrapping them in sheets and afghans from their trunks to the tips! So far they're okay. I just really want this tree to grow here and never could find another I liked so well. When they get too large to wrap, do you think Christmas lights would keep them warm enough? What do citrus farmers use? Smudge pots? Any ideas would be appreciated!

  8. Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ
    Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ says:

    Hi Noelle,
    My yard looked pretty much like yours the last few nights.
    I wondered how your tomato plants did? I have just one in a pot and covered it well with a heavy bath towel, but parts of it froze anyway. Darn!

  9. says:


    Well, the temperatures have warmed and I now have taken off the sheets, towels and blanket off of the plants. Instead of washing them, I left them in a pile in a corner of the garage since I am sure I will need them again.

    Dear Anonymous,
    It can be hard with Ficus trees. Lights in the trees can help, but only a little bit. Citrus farmers actually use windmills to move the air on freezing nights to help. Watering your plants beforehand can help since the water releases heat during the night. I wish that I could say that your trees will never freeze again, but even following these tips cannot guarantee it – but they can help 🙂

    Dear Nancy,
    My tomatoes did get a little frost damage where the wind blew off the sheet that I had covering them. But I still have nice green tomatoes hanging from the frost damaged growth, so I will leave it alone for now 🙂


  10. Candy "Sweetstuff"
    Candy "Sweetstuff" says:

    Wow I had no idea you got freezing weather in Phoenix. My sister just moved there last year. I love the towels and sheets everywhere. My house usually looks like that outside but this year I bought some special frost cloth. We will see how it works!

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