Preparing Your Plants for Florida’s Winter Season

Just because snow is an extreme rarity in Florida doesn’t mean that you don’t have to worry about your plants and your lawn during the winter. Cold temperatures and less rain can have detrimental effects on subtropical plant life. Thankfully, there are a number of tips to help keep your Florida lawn and garden healthy during the brief chilly months. While we previously discussed how to prepare your Florida lawn for fall, we now move on to winter!

Preparing Your Plants for Winter

Cold for Florida plants is very different from cold for more Northern plants. The Sunshine State generally sees a wide range of winter temperatures from 40 to 70 degrees (F), peaking around January and February. While some rain may fall in the winter, it is usually followed by a windy cold front, which poses the greatest threat to your plans in the wintertime. Making use of plants that flourish throughout the year is key to expert landscaping. For all plants, though, surviving the winter depends on placement, watering and covering.

Minimize the effects of cold weather fronts from the north and west by locating tropical plants to the south and east side of your house, fence or sturdy hedge. Protect palm trees with the shielding of bigger, more cold-resistant trees, and generate insulation by placing small plants below taller trees. Prior to a hard-hitting cold night, it is crucial to water your plants in order to preserve them from dry winds and warm the soil. Watering your plants overnight can actually damage them, so it is especially important to water your plants in the morning.

Covering your plants is another way to shield them from harsh winds and cold temperatures. However, only certain materials will be effective to protect your plants. Your best option is to use well-insulated frost cloth, which can be purchased from home centers and nurseries. Decent covering alternatives include thick blankets or quilts, but plastic should never be used, as it can actually harm plants. Completely cover plants with the frost cloth by securely fastening it to the ground, and tie up young palm fronds while covering the head of the palm.

You Can Grow Crops in Winter?

It’s true that Florida’s relatively chilly winter nights can potentially damage plants if necessary precautions are not taken. Yet many vibrant plants and varieties of crops can still flourish in the overall fairly mild season. Prepare for cold weather and ensure your Florida plants stay healthy with the following measures:

  • Fruit trees — Citrus trees should be fertilized and examined for scab disease. Now is also the time to plant new deciduous fruit trees (Asian pear, plum, peach) so they will be ready for the spring, and already existing deciduous fruit trees should be fertilized and pruned.
  • Flowering trees — January is an especially great time to prune non-spring flowering trees and shrubs, in addition to your deciduous fruit trees. Roses and other shrubs should be fertilized early in the year, followed by fertilization and re-mulching of the beds to keep in moisture.
  • Palms — Palm trees are particularly susceptible to damage from cold weather. Closely examine your palms during steep temperature drops and frost, treating them for cold damage if dead branches or leaf tissue are found.
  • Flower beds — Keep a variety of annuals in your garden that are tolerant to cooler weather, such as petunias, pansies and snapdragons. Plant bulbous flowers like amaryllis in the winter, taking extra care to lay down plenty of mulch and regularly water them.
  • Camellias and azaleas — Plant your camellias in January and your azaleas in February when they are in bloom as a way to brighten up your landscaping in the winter. If you choose to add azalea bushes to your yard, be sure their blooms don’t trigger an allergic reaction.
  • Vegetables — While you will need to keep a close watch for freezing temperature drops and cover your garden beds as necessary, many vegetables will still grow abundantly in Florida from the fall and through the winter. Ideal winter vegetables for your garden include carrots, cauliflower, potatoes and cabbage. As early as February, planting seeds for spring vegetables can begin, but it will still be important to pay attention to your seedlings in the cold temperatures.

What to Do When It Gets Really Cold

The best way to prevent damage to your plants during the winter is to prepare in advance, as previously discussed. Properly covering your plants on particularly cold nights is essential as part of this preparation.

However, what do you do when it gets really cold, and your plants are damaged? First, while it may seem tempting, do not prune your plants after damage! Pruning will only cause the plant to continue to grow, which can cause even worse damage the next time temperatures suddenly drop. Letting your damaged plants be as they are for the time being will also improve insulation for the healthy parts until the winter passes. It’s also important to not fertilize plants damaged from cold, as this will also cause new growth.

There are a number of signs to look for to determine if your plant may have experienced damage from the cold. Tropical plants like crotons often drop a few to all of their leaves in cold weather, although they will regrow in the spring. Tan, brown or black wilted leaves can be a sign of foliage burn. Leave the damage leaves until the spring when you can cut them off. Finally, fungus can also be a sign of cold damage, which can often be detected through brown spots on leaves. Use appropriate fungicides to treat the infected plants, and spray your plants at the beginning of winter to improve resistance to fungi.

Unsure if you plants are dead or still alive? Try gently scratching the stem to see what color appears under the scratched surface. Green is good, but any color aside from green could indicate a dead plant.

Prepare Your Landscaping for Winter with an Expert

The best way to ensure your lawn, garden and landscaping stay healthy during the winter in Florida is to enlist the help of an expert. Daniel’s Lawn Service & Pressure Washing provides experienced landscape design and lawn care services across Central Florida. Contact us today to schedule your appointment with us!