Late freeze in Southern Arizona threatens Spring gardens

Published: Apr. 4, 2023 at 6:38 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 4, 2023 at 7:10 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - An unexpected drop in temperatures has flower nursery workers concerned about the impact a possible freeze could have on plants across southern Arizona.

It’s not something we typically see in April and it could be a huge problem for people who just went out and bought all of those flowers and plants for the spring.

The timing of Tuesday night’s freeze warning could have a big impact on plant sellers as well as people with plants at home. Business is blooming this time of year, but this cold weather could mean some plants won’t make it through the spring.

″We have moved plants out of our greenhouses that are going to present a problem for us. There are so many of them. It’s going to be hard for us to cover,” said Trey Barton, manager at Green Things.

Overnight, freezing temperatures are expected across southern Arizona, including parts of Tucson on Tuesday. It’s an unwelcome surprise for plant nurseries.

″We’re going to have a difficult time with that tonight,” Barton said. “A lot of plants, like our roses – we have thousands of roses and we grew them in the greenhouses in the back and we waited and waited and waited until we thought that the temperatures were warm enough to put them outside. They cover such a big area that we wouldn’t have the ability to cover them.”

According to Barton, native plants won’t need protection, but several plants like vegetables, geraniums and other annuals could be threatened if the temperature drops to 32 degrees or below.

″For damage to occur to plants, it’s somewhat based on how cold it gets, how long it’s cold, and the state of growth of the plant,” he explained.

If your plants are acclimated to the cold and don’t have new growth, he says they likely won’t be harmed, but it’s better to play it safe. At Green Things, the workers are planning to cover as many of their plants as possible with frost cloth.

″It’s a lightweight fabric that you can drape over your plants. You generally want to put it over lightly and have it go all the way to the ground. When you cover it, I’d use rocks, bricks, or something to hold the fabric in place,” Barton advised.

If you can’t bring your plants inside, a towel or another lightweight fabric will also do the trick and keep them protected. Plants that have been watered recently are less susceptible to damage from the cold.

Watering your plants tonight before temperatures drop could help protect them.