Lynn Barber, FFL Agent

How many of your favorite plants were damaged by frost or freeze this winter? And, what were those plants? Were they tropical plants installed in the ground and not suited for our zone, which is 9b? They could have been plants suited for our zone but were not the right plant in the right place. Micro-climates exist in our landscapes, so one plant may survive in a certain place, and in another location the same type plant may not.

I’ve witnessed and been told about the demise of several tropical plants in Hillsborough County that are suited for more temperate zones than ours. Some include Poinciana, Mussaenda, Christmas Palm and Jacaranda.

What can you do to increase the number of surviving plants? Here are a few tips:

-Buy and plant what survived. In my landscape and ours at the Extension office, some survivors include Bulbine, Liriope, Ground orchid, Coontie and St. Bernard’s lily. This, however, depends on the location.

-Repeat your successes.

-Do not repeat your failures…unless you have a lot of time and money and little to do with either!

-If you must have tropicals suited for warmer zones, plant them in a pot placed on a plant coaster with wheels so you can move them inside more easily. Or grow tropicals on your lanai or front porch in pots and move them closer to the house in colder weather. Planting tropical under mature trees can protect them from frost damage.

Can’t live without orchids? Buy a hanging clothes rack or garden cart with wheels. Load the plants on the rack or into the cart, then wheel them inside your garage which can easily be 10-15 degrees warmer than the outside temperature.

-Divide and share surviving plants with your friends and ask them to share theirs with you.

-Download your own personal and free copy of The Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s website: https://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/sites/default/files/store_products/fynplantguide-web.pdf. This is a great resource you will use time and time again to select appropriate plants for our zone. In this Guide, we are in the Central region of the state.

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, 744-5519, or visit us at 5339 CR 579 in Seffner.

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