January can be one of our coldest months. Healthy plants can withstand cold temperatures much better than those that are neglected. Remember to water deeply during dry spells. Be careful to follow the watering restrictions. By mulching tender plants you can help trap the heat in the soil. When there is a predicted frost, cover plants with sheets, blankets, newspapers, cardboard boxes or any other suitable materials. This covering should not be left on more than two or three days even if you have to re-cover the plants later. If you use plastic, it must be removed the next morning.
You can't do much to protect tropical plants in the landscape from being damaged or killed by a hard freeze. Covering only protects against frost and possibly a light freeze. Some people erect tall, plastic covered structures and hang light bulbs in an attempt to keep the area warm. Potted plants can be moved indoors, to a garage or shed for temporary protection. After potted plants are moved back out be sure to check the soil for dryness.
You may be tempted to prune cold-damaged plants, but severe pruning on woody plants should be delayed until new growth appears in the spring. Herbaceous plants (those with green stems) that tend to rot after a freeze can be cut back to the ground to try and save the root system.
Compiled by Theresa Badurek, urban horticulture extension agent, UF/IFAS Pinellas County Extension Service. For additional landscape and garden information, visit pinellascountyextension.org. For regular tips and information about what's growing in Pinellas, go to facebook.com/growpinellas.