Protecting plants during freezing conditions

Protecting plants during freezing temperatures

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The temperatures will dip below freezing in many Tucson locations calling for folks to take care of plants and pets. Pipes are not an issue right now, and keep the pets warm.

But what about the plants.

Rodney White, of the Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery gave KOLD News 13 a refresher to help protect plants as much as possible during the freeze.

Citrus can be especially vulnerable, particularly those recently planted.

“One thing you want to do, even though we had rain, go out and water them,” he said. “Make sure they’re very well watered, that really helps.”

But don’t water cactus because “When they’re swollen up with water, they will split.”

Generally plants that flower, or those which have already flowered, will need to be covered.

A frost blanket is best. Boxes work on ground cover or plants that hug the ground. Even Styrofoam cups can be used on the new growth on cactus. Just put it on the top and they can be left there for a while.

"There are times we've left them on for a couple of months," he said. "We shouldn't but it's not always easy taking them off."

If one chooses sheets, “make sure you get the fabric up off the plant in case we get a frost, it’s going to go right there and damage the plant.”

Take them off the next day unless the freeze goes a couple of days, then it's okay to leave them on.

“If it’s going to be one night, take them off in the morning,” White said. “Don’t take them off first thing in the morning because right at sun up is the coldest part of the day.”

If the plant does get damaged and turns brown, it's not time to panic.

"Even though it's tough to look at, you leave the frozen parts on the plant until the middle of March," he said. "Because that acts as insulation for the rest of the plant that was not damaged."

And whenever it gets cold, he gets lots of calls.

“I talk to people all the time who ask if they have to cover their roses,” he said. “They forgot they didn’t have to cover them when they lived in Ohio.”

And they also field calls from folks who ask if they have to cover their native mesquite.

He tells them “not tonight.”

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