Cold weather may soon be around the corner and we might not be prepared. Now is the time to plan ahead for what protection measures you will take in your landscape.
Plants that require protection in home landscapes are copperleaf, banana, papaya, poinsettia, hibiscus, ixora (shown), dwarf schefflera, carissa, philodendron, croton, bougainvillea, allamanda, seagrape, bromeliads, tropical fruit trees and any other tropical or semitropical plant you may have planted.
Covers offer the most practical cold protection for valuable tender plants. Old sheets, blankets, boxes, newspaper or plastic can be used for covers. When using plastic, build a frame over the plant so that the plastic does not touch the plant's foliage. Any covering should be sealed to the ground. This will trap heat rising from the ground and keep the interior three to four degrees warmer than the outside air.
Apply the cover late in the afternoon before the temperature starts to drop. Plastic covers should be removed the next morning after the temperature is above freezing but before the sun's rays become warm enough to cook your plants. Cloth or paper coverings can remain over plants for two or three days if the temperature is expected to go below freezing each night.
Additional information can be obtained by accessing the University of Florida/IFAS publication "Cold Protection of Ornamental Plants" on the Internet at edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MG025.
Sources: Carol Suggs and Theresa Badurek, Pinellas County Extension Service. Learn more online at askextension.org or pinellascountyextension.org.