How to Protect Your Plants During Storms and Cold Fronts

The Phoenix area is known for its mild winters, but that doesn’t mean we never experience frigid—even freezing—temperatures. Winter nights in the desert can get cold enough to present a hazard to the plants and trees in your yard.

So how can you protect your plants from these cold fronts, or from other storms that threaten them? There are a few simple tips every homeowner should know.

Understand cold weather.

Knowing how cold weather works will help you adequately prepare for it. Here are a couple things to remember:

  • The temperature in your yard may be different from the temperature reported on the news. Collect temperature readings in your yard and compare them to those on the news so you can know when you expect frost.
  • The coldest temperatures usually occur right before daybreak when the weather is calm and clear. Clouds act as an insulator, keeping heat in.
  • Cold air flows downward, so if you have any slopes in your yard, the lowest parts are likely to be hit the hardest.

Know your plants.

Some plants are more tolerant to cold temperatures and frost. It’s best to think about this before you plant and choose sturdy plants. You can also protect plants by placing them near walls or structures, since those things will help keep in the heat. 

If it’s too late for that, however, you can still protect your plants. Do some research (a local nursery is a great resource!) on how the plants in your yard handle frost conditions. Be sure to take into account the age and condition of your plants; plants that are still in early stages of growth are usually more at risk.

Potted plants also tend to freeze more easily. If possible, move potted plants indoors when the temperatures will be below freezing. 

Keep plants healthy.

Maintaining your plants’ health is a key step in protecting them from storms and cold temperatures. Make sure to water them properly, trim them regularly, and keep the soil around them healthy.

Cover your plants during a frost.

Frost cloth is a special type of breathable cloth that keeps heat inside without suffocating the plant. Specialized frost cloth is ideal for this, but if you don’t have any, you can also use painters cloth or lightweight sheets. Heavier materials will work, but they also might break branches.

However you cover your plants, make sure that the cloth reaches the ground, as this traps the heat and humidity from the ground to keep the plant warm. Do not tie the fabric around the base of the tree or bush; just let it hang naturally to the ground. Also, never use plastic to cover your plants, as it will actually freeze and make the plant colder.

Related: Prepare Your Landscape for an Arizona Winter

Phoenix may not experience too many freezing nights, but it’s still important to know how to protect your plants on the coldest nights of the year. Care for them well, and they will stay healthy and beautiful all year long. 

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