Lynn Barber, Hillsborough County Extension
Plant the right plant in the right place. Plant what grows in our zone, 9B. Order a free copy of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection and Landscape Design at www.watermatters.org, under free publications. We are in the central zone in this Guide.
Maintain a three-inch layer of mulch which regulates soil temperature and protects plant roots.
Don’t encourage new plant growth (fertilizing or pruning) which is more prone to cold damage. Fertilization is needed during the growing season, not during plant dormancy.
Delay pruning until you see new growth and after the risk of future freezes pass, which is generally mid-February. Then prune beyond the black/brown stem coloration; or prune all dead/freeze damage making it easier to cover/protect the plant from another freeze. Note that damaged plant material insulates/protects live parts of the plant while pruning results in new growth.
Relocate and group container plants together. Cover to the ground or move into your garage which is warmer than the outside temperature.
Pre-freeze, slightly moisten the soil. Moist soil releases more heat than dry soil. Watering the ground beneath the plant helps. Post-freeze, water thaws the frozen moisture in the soil and gives your plant a drink.
Plant coverings are frost protection versus cold protection. Covers (sheets/quilts) should be in place before sundown, removed during daylight and must extend to the ground to capture heat from the soil and provide wind protection. Frost/freeze cloth may remain in place for several days as air and light flow through. Use a cardboard box large enough to fully cover the plant or make a frame over the plant; then place one of the above cover types over the frame.
On most root hardy perennials, the foliage dies back to the ground; but come spring, new shoots will appear, and your landscape should thrive again.
We hope you will stop by our teaching/demonstration gardens at the Extension office to view our plant selections.
Check out our calendar of events at: http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu/calendar.shtml. For horticultural assistance, contact the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County, 813-744-5519, or visit us at 5339 CR 579 in Seffner.