Tag Archive for: plastic

The cold weather has arrived in my neck of the woods with even colder temperatures on their way later this week.  

When temperatures dip below 32 degrees, you will find me wearing warm socks, slippers, a sweater, and cardigan when I’m indoors.  But, besides me – frost-tender plants are also affected by the cold temperatures.

Have you ever wondered why your plant’s leaves turn brown and crispy after a freeze?  Well, ice crystals form on the top of the leaves, which ‘sucks’ out the moisture from the leaf, leaving it brown and crispy.

Frost Protection

Many plants handle cold weather just fine and have no problems with frost.  However, if you have frost-tender plants, such as bougainvillea, lantana, or yellow bells, you face a choice; Do you leave them unprotected from freezing temperatures and live with the unattractive frost-damaged growth?  Or do you protect them when temperatures dip below freezing?

Either choice is fine and is a matter of personal preference.  Frost-damaged growth can be pruned back once the last frost of the season has passed (early March where I live).  But, if you don’t want to live with brown, crispy plants for a few months, then protecting your plants when temps dip below freezing is necessary.

In the daytime, the sun shines on soil, warming it.  At night, the soil releases the warmth from the ground.  When you cover your plants – the heat is captured keeping your plants warmer.

Frost Protection

Plants aren’t fussy about what type of covering you use (with one exception); old sheets and towels are usually on hand and are easy to use.  Burlap and newspaper are also useful as coverings.  Cover your frost-tender plants in the evening, making sure that there aren’t any gaps where the heat can escape.  You can use large rocks or clothespins to secure them in place.  In the day, remove the covers once temperatures have risen above freezing, and allow the sun to warm the soil again.  

Frost Protection

Don’t keep the coverings on your plants for more than two days in a row without removing them in the day since this can cause water to become trapped underneath, leading to fungal diseases and can cause plants to produce new growth that can be easily damaged by cold.

The best type of frost protection is frost cloth, which is a breathable fabric because it can ‘breathe,’ you can leave the frost cloth on your plants for a longer period.  But, use it only when there is a threat of frost.  After three days, uncover your plants during the day to allow the sun to reach your plants.

frost damage Protection

My neighbor made things worse by using plastic as a covering for his citrus trees.

One type of covering that you shouldn’t use is plastic, which transfers the cold to your plants and damages leaves when it touches the plant itself.

In my garden, I only protect my frost-tender trailing lantana which is in a high-profile area next to my entry.  The rest of my frost-tender plants, I leave alone until it is time to prune back their frost-damaged growth in spring.

So whether you cover your plants or not, the choice is yours ๐Ÿ™‚

For more information on frost protection, check out the following link from the University of Arizona: Frost Protection

How to Protect Plants From Frost

Many of you may be taking inventory of your garden after the extreme cold spell we just went through in the desert southwest.  Temperatures dipped into the 20’s, which is quite cold for us desert dwellers.  As a result, there are many plants that for lack of a better description, look brown and crispy…..

Brown and Crispy Plants


Not a pretty sight, is it?

Well, that is the price we pay for growing tropical plants in our semi-tropical climate.  In return for the beauty these plants give us 9 months of the year, we have to put up with 3 months of ugly.

My own garden has a mix of brown and crispy plants along with some plants that are better adapted to the cold and are still nice and green.

First, the brown and crispy:

Brown and Crispy Plants

My large Bush Lantana (Lantana camara) is no longer green.  The leaves have turned brown and are now falling off.  I can now see some trash that has collected underneath as well.

Brown and Crispy Plants

Brown and Crispy Plants

My own Bougainvillea is hardly recognizable anymore.  I had hoped that the freeze would have killed the green weed that keeps growing through this particular Bougainvillea, but wouldn’t you know it…..it is still green.

Brown and Crispy Plants

My large Orange Jubilee shrub (Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’) got hit hard as well.  It is interesting to note that the part of the shrub that is still green lies underneath the branches of my Cascalote tree, which offered some protection from the frost.

Brown and Crispy Plants

One of my favorite shrubs, Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans) was also affected by the cold weather.

The severe cold also had an interesting affect on my flowering Agave desmettiana….

Agave desmettiana

Not only were the leaves damaged by the cold, but the forming flowers on the stalk were also damaged.

crispy plants

Just a few days ago, the flowers were upright and growing quickly.

I’m not sure if the tip of the flowering stalk was damaged as well.  If it wasn’t, it will continue to grow upwards and have a few more flowers to form.

This past cold spell was extreme and so some of the damage I have seen is rather rare, like the damaged Agave.  It will be interesting to see how it does in the coming days.

Some of my tropical plants weathered the cold very well, including my Gold Lantana.

so green

The reason they still look so green is that they are partially protected by the overhang of my roof and the fact that I also covered them at night.

I took a drive through my neighborhood to see how other gardens fared with the cold.

brown Ficus tree

We have quite a few brown Ficus trees around the neighborhood.  You know, some people just love Ficus trees and lament the frost damage that occurs every few years when we have an exceptionally hard freeze.  But, that is what happens with Ficus trees and will continue to happen when we have extra cold weather.  

**For those people who ask me for an alternative tree, I always recommend using a Sissoo tree (Dalbergia sissoo), which has a beautiful green canopy and fares better in the cold.


I’m not sure what plant is hidden underneath these blankets, but I suspect that it might be a Bougainvillea.

Natal Plum shrubs

These Natal Plum shrubs are only partially protected.  I guess the homeowner ran out of towels?  The shrubs may end up with interesting patterns of green and brown foliage.

protect your plants

 Did you know that using plastic this way does not protect your plants from the cold?  When plastic touches the leaves, it actually causes them to release heat.  Plastic should only be used with a frame so that the foliage does not touch the plastic itself.

Although we do have our share of cold winter days, this past cold spell was extreme and so some of the damage I have seen is rather rare, like the damaged Agave.  It will be interesting to see how it does in the coming days.

You may wonder why I use tropical plants in my garden, since they do go through an ugly period each winter.  Well, if all I had in my garden was tropical plants, winter would be kind of depressing.  But thankfully, I do have quite a few plants that hold up very well to the winter cold. 

In my next post, I will showcase those plants that did weather our cold spell very well.