Jan 12, 2024 - Climate

How to care for plants ahead of the freeze

a green cabbage wearing a pair of fluffy blue ear muffs

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

With the frigid temperatures ahead, it's time to prepare.

Driving the news: Temperatures will drop as early as Sunday, so our friends at Space City Weather recommend completing all preparations by the end of Saturday.

Be smart: Weatherize your home, keep your pets warm, charge your external batteries and sign up for emergency alerts.

As for plants, here's what Brent Moon, a horticulturist with Houston Botanic Garden, recommends for frost-tender plants:

  • Bring potted plants inside. Even if you temporarily put them in an unheated garage, they'll have a higher chance of survival.
  • Deep water your plants before the freeze. "Wet and moist soil always holds heat better than dry soil," Moon says.
  • Mulch to insulate the roots, and protect the graft unions on citrus trees.
  • If you have a special plant you care deeply about, you can dig it out and put it in a pot or trash bag for a few days.
  • Cover plants — including winter crops and vulnerable landscape bushes — with a breathable cloth, like frost cloth or even old sheets and towels, until we're consistently above freezing temperatures.
  • Yes, but: Don't cover plants with plastic, as that can cause them to overheat when the sun comes out.

What they're saying: "Native trees and things like that are probably going to be fine," Moon says. "But it seems like Houstonians will have to keep learning this lesson over and over: Plants like queen palms [and date palms] are not hardy in our area."

After the freeze, Moon recommends not cutting the plant to see if it will regrow back from the roots.

  • Of note: Generally, it is recommended not to prune during winter to discourage new growth that may be tender and susceptible to frost.
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