December 2013 –
How to Limit Cold Weather Damage to Your Plants

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Rita's Monthly Gardening Tips,  December 5, 2013

In our Sunset Zone of 17, we can expect winter temperatures to range from lows of 36 to 23 degrees. The lowest temperature on record is 20 degrees. If you don’t know what your plant hardiness zone is go to


Here are some tips to help your plants survive the chilly weather:


  • Know which of your plants are more susceptible to frost damage and be prepared to take action when temperatures go below freezing.


  • Make sure they are watered.


  • Mulch the ground around plants to maintain soil warmth.


  • Move portable plants closer to a sheltered area such as under an evergreen tree or covered porch, against the house, into a garage, or next to a wall.


  • Christmas lights wrapped around the plant will provide a gentle heat source. Use the kind of lights that produce heat, not the LED types. Don’t use tarps to cover plants with Christmas lights on them to prevent accidental fires.


  • For plants that can’t be moved put a tenting of material over them. Make sure the covering material doesn’t touch the leaves. There’s no need to buy anything fancy. Old sheets, blankets, plastic, tarps, cardboard, burlap, etc will work fine. Set up the framework and covering sturdy enough so that the winds don’t blow it down, but easy enough to remove during the day so the plant can get light.


  • According to Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D, antitranspirants don’t have any effect on the ability of plants to survive cold weather. Another practice that Dr. Chalker-Scott discounts is the use of potassium or magnesium to increase cold hardiness in plants.


  • Potted plants are more susceptible to frost damage. The smaller the pot the colder the root ball gets. Also, thinner pots provide less protection.


  • If you see frost damage on your plant don’t prune it back until after the last frost or you risk losing another layer of plant leaves and stems.


  • When choosing plants to buy purchase ones that are adapted to your climate so you don’t have to worry about losing them in normal cold, windy winter weather.