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Cold weather and plants: If you’re cold, they’re cold too!

Last week was a cold week. Temperatures near 0 degrees at times, with highs in the teens. Now this week is mid 30’s to 40’s.

Three things to watch for with plants when considering cold temperatures:

  • How quickly does the temperature change?

  • How big is the range in temperature change?

  • How long does it stay cold?

The stress from huge fluctuations in temperature does not allow plants to acclimate and can cause burn and cracking bark. When the temperatures stay cold for long periods cells can die, just like frost bite for us humans. The longer the period of exposure the more likely for dieback in some buds and branches. Each plant is different in its ability to handle the cold. Roses and Hydrangeas are two common plants that do not handle this extreme cold well.

The best response is to protect the crown of the plant by covering the base in mulch, leaves, straw, etc. Anything to keep the core of the plant from deep freezing. You want a material that insulates well and can be easily removed like peat moss, leaf litter or mulch. Straw works well but it is messy to clean up in the spring. Ideally the best insulation or protection is snow, but we don’t get much measurable snow around here anymore. Cold damage is hard to detect and often time plants won’t show signs until mid-summer. If you have questions about your plants and how to protect them from cold damage, please contact us. We’re happy to help.


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