Even in Florida, it is important to cover tender plants if the temperature is going to drop near or below freezing. When we were hit with a spell of frigid weather last year, we lost several of our tropical plants. If we had just taken a few minutes to cover them, I think they would have survived. This year we are not taking any chances. We have purchased extra hay, straw, and multiple frost protection bags and blankets!
If you have small plants in the ground, they can be easily protected with a layer of pine straw or hay. Both of these types of insulators are relatively inexpensive to purchase, so it is a great choice for those watching their budget. The amount of straw or hay to apply during the winter months should ideally be between 3 to 6 inches thick. Obviously, the best plant protection will depend on your specific plant’s temperature requirements. Gauge accordingly.
I also use older, not-so-pretty pots, as protection for some of my smaller plants. If you are like me, you probably have a few pots sitting in your shed that have seen better days. These are the pots that I use for plant protection during a frost.
Clay or terra-cotta pots are a great insulator because of their clay content; however, freezing weather can also damage them. For that reason, I also use plastic and/or resin pots. To protect against frost, carefully turn them upside down on your plants. I remove them just as soon as possible – no longer than 48 hours, if the weather permits.
For bigger plants, I like to use some type of cloth frost bag. We bought several reusable frost protection bags for single shrubs, pots and/or hanging baskets. They seem to install quickly and will provide about 6-8 degrees of protection. Blankets, on the other hand, are great for larger areas – or for covering multiple plants.
Remember, don’t be in too big of a hurry to prune off damaged parts of your plants. I recommend waiting a few weeks so that you will have a better idea of how much damage actually occurred. If you wait till spring … you will see new growth emerging and will have a better idea of what needs to be pruned.