Preparing Plants for a Florida Cold Front
If you’ve talked to your northern friends lately, you’ll know that we dodged a blizzard-filled bullet of single-digit temperatures last winter and likely will every winter to follow. Will your plants dodge that very same bullet? After all, Florida sometimes experiences unpredictably cold weather, even to the point of freezing in certain areas. Appropriate planning and care throughout the year could mean the difference between plants that live or those that perish. It’s those wise words that we apply to landscape practices here at Golden Ocala Golf & Equestrian Club.
Tricks of the Trade
First, avoid fertilizing and pruning non-cold-tolerant plants in the late fall. Fertilization encourages new growth, leaving plants highly susceptible to cold damage. Save the pruning for early spring, and if you live in Central Florida or north of Central Florida, select cold-hardy varieties (see attached list).
By containerizing cold-sensitive and cold-intolerant plants, such as tropical ones, you can move them into a warm, sheltered area, if and when freeze or frost warnings come around. Buy plenty of plant covers, frost blankets and freeze cloths for those random deep freezes. A few things to keep in mind when it comes to the coverings — they should completely touch the soil, trapping the heat beneath. A weather-resistant electric light bulb may help. Of course, trees and similar plants are too large to cover, so their trunks must be wrapped in several layers of cloth. Regardless of the way said plants are covered, everything must come off when temperatures rise above freezing again.
The Power of Cold
Do not underestimate the power of the cold — even here in paradise-like Florida. Cold-sensitive and tender plants may suffer frost and cold damage, and cold-intolerant plants will suffer frost and cold damage. Both must be protected. Only cold-hardy ones can sustain average low temperatures.
And just in case you were wondering, Golden Ocala practices what it preaches. Cold-intolerant annuals are the first to be covered, followed by some types of large lilies. Because we have such an expansive piece of property to maintain, adding and removing covers to heat and prevent overheating takes more diligence.
Occasionally, despite your best efforts, plants may be damaged by cold. Even so, do not prune any damage away until spring. When the time is right, you’ll know exactly where to prune, as cold-damaged plants should sprout new growth below the damage.
Bring the Heat
Although Floridians live for the heat, extremely high temperatures are not always a plant’s best friend. That being said, adhere to the USDA zone maps to choose the right plants for your yard. Different zones within the sunshine state can impact plant choice.
And if you’re in Ocala like we are, keep in mind, the USDA hardiness zone is 9b, and the last frost date is between March 11-20 — just so that you can prep your plants for the transition from cold to hot.
For a complete list of appropriate plants for this area, click here. In short, keep calm, love your plants and if you’re looking for more feedback, call Golden Ocala — (352) 629-6229. We will be glad to help.