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Protecting plants from near-freezing temps in Southwest Florida

Posted at 6:18 PM, Jan 17, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-17 18:18:26-05

With near-freezing temperatures expected early Thursday morning in Southwest Florida, many garden and landscaping plants are susceptible to frost damage. So how do you keep your plants - many of which may be from tropical climates - safe in the unusually cold weather, with overnight lows predicted around 36 degrees?

"It wouldn't hurt to cover this time of year, because we are supposed to get close to freezing," said John Brossard, who manages the Naples Fertilizer and Garden Center. 

Brossard said he's been selling a lot of frost blankets to people wanting to protect their garden plants from damage.

"Vegetables are the most susceptible to the freeze, and annuals," he said. "Small, succulent plants are very susceptible to the freeze."

He said that frost blankets can stay on the plants for a couple of days, but they need to be staked down so they don't blow away. 

Palm trees are prone to damage in extreme cold.

"They can get tip damage (on the leaves)," Brossard said. "You can cut them back, but you need to wait at least a week or two to see how far back they've been damaged."

He said that tropical plants like hibiscus and gardenias will probably lose some leaves in the frigid temperatures, but should survive.

Grasses, such as St. Augustine and floratam, might turn brown in the cold weather, but should also be fine. But zoysia grass may not look its best for a while after the cold snap.

"It does go kind of dormant, so it stays brown for a few months," Brossard said.

He said that linen sheets work fine as plant covers, but that using plastic or fiberglass is not recommended, because they will damage your plants.