One of the best protections against cold damage is a healthy plant. Provide the proper location and growing conditions for your plants. Cold sensitive plants are best planted in parts of the landscape where they will have protection from cold winds and away from areas where cold air settles. Fences, dense shrubs, overhead tree canopy and even buildings can help protect tender plants. Avoid heavy fertilizations in the fall. Also avoid heavy pruning in the early to late fall which can encourage a flush of new growth that will be more sensitive to cold damage.
If a freeze or frost is expected, you should hand water the root zone of your cold sensitive plants thoroughly. It is best not to do overhead watering during a freeze. Growers do this to protect valuable crops like strawberries, but it is difficult for a homeowner to judge the correct amount of water to use. It may also go against the water restrictions in your area. Plants in containers are more vulnerable than plants in the ground. They are more easily transported to a shelter, inside, or the garage. Some plants like orchids may need to be moved inside to shelter if the temperature will get down below 50 degrees.
Have on hand blankets, sheets, newspapers, bricks, large rocks, and large boxes to cover cold sensitive plants. You should cover them before the sun goes down. Covers should extend all the way to the ground and be weighted down with bricks or rocks. By covering all the way to the ground you will trap some of the heat that the ground has absorbed during the day. If you have a particularly valuable cold sensitive plant you can build a shelter over it, cover it with a blanket and put a light under the shelter to provide heat. Be very careful that the light does not touch the covers and cause a fire.
Check out our short video below for tips for protecting plants from a frost or freeze and also what to do after a freeze.
For additional information on cold protection for your plants, access the UF/IFAS publications on line at: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_landscapes_and_cold, call our lawn and garden help line at 727 582-2110 or visit our web site at http://pinellascountyextension.org/ .