Campus News

Protect plants from the cold

As unseasonably cold weather grips the Southeast, gardeners are scrambling to keep their plants alive. Gary Wade, a Cooperative Extension horticulturist, suggests wrapping plants in quilts and blankets, topping them with cardboard boxes or caging them with chicken wire filled with dry leaves—“anything that provides insulation.”

Christmas tree lights can even keep vegetation warm, he said, but not LED Christmas lights, as they don’t produce enough heat.

Wade also uses shop lights under the covering to help keep his plants warm.

The worst thing plant lovers can do is cover their plants with plastic, he said. Plastic sheeting and bags trap moisture, which can in turn freeze on a plant’s leaves and cause significant damage to the plant. Cloth coverings, on the other hand, absorb moisture and prevent ice build-up on leaves. Wade also cautions homeowners against trying to use sprinklers to blanket their plants with ice.

The best way to keep a container plant alive during extremely cold weather is to bring it inside into a home, garage, greenhouse or shed. If that is not an option, first, push container plants together to decrease heat loss. Then, cover or mulch the plants. Finally, wrap the containers and the plants in burlap or blankets.