. It's hard to believe, but we've just had a taste of cold weather. Plan now for what protective measures you will take in your landscape when the temperatures really dip.
Plants that require protection are copperleaf, banana, papaya, poinsettia, hibiscus, ixora, dwarf schefflera, carissa, philodendron, croton, bougainvillea, allamanda, seagrape, bromeliads, tropical fruit trees or any other tropical or semitropical plant you may have planted.
. Covers offer the most practical cold protection for prized plants. Old sheets, blankets, boxes, newspaper or plastic can be used for covers. When using plastic, build a frame over the plant so 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 a few 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. For the University of Florida/IFAS publication Cold Protection of Ornamental Plants, go to edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg025.
. This is an excellent time to plant several varieties of herbs. Even if you don't have space, herbs can be grown in containers. Some even do well indoors on a sunny windowsill. Some cool-season herbs are sage, dill, cilantro, anise, sweet marjoram, thyme, lavender, rosemary, sweet fennel and chives. Herbs do best in well-drained soil with a minimum of fertilizer.
Information from Carol Suggs and Theresa Badurek of the Pinellas County Extension Service and from the Hillsborough County Extension Gardening Almanac. Go to the extension websites at pinellascountyextension.org and hillsborough.extension.ufl.edu.