With winter right around the corner we should give thought to our tender plants that might be harmed by the cold. To often new arrivals to the area find out how quickly a jade plant will succumb to the cold. It seems every year we hear about another one of these plants that someone had trudged all the way from the Bay area, Southern California Cal, etc. The water in the succulent stems and leaves can crystallize with the cold, expanding dramatically, and the plant bursts ... and then turns to mush. This is interesting to watch, but very bad for the plant; they are safest indoors for the winter. Jade plants are not the only plants that need to be protected. Most citrus, tropical hibiscus, bougainvillea, some cactus, some succulents, and houseplants should all be protected from the cold.
The solution for many of these plants is to simply bring them indoors. That ficus tree that you set out side this summer needs to be brought back in before the first frost. Really it should be brought in long before that, as temperatures in the forties can be harmful. Most all houseplant need to be kept in the house during the winter. Keep in mind that when you bring the plants indoors you should not locate them where the heater vents or fireplace is located. The heat may be too much for them.
Plants like citrus or tropical hibiscus do not necessarily need to be brought indoors. They just need to be located out of the direct cold, like on a covered patio. The cover over the patio helps quite a bit in keeping the cold off the plants. This won’t work if they are planted in the ground, of course. That is why we don’t really recommend planting tender plants in the ground. Trying to protect them each winter can be done, but forget just once and they could be doomed.
With both plants in the ground, and container plants, there are some things you can do to help. “Frost Blanket” is a lightweight material that drapes over the plant, making as much as a seven degree difference between the outside and under the blanket. Some people use plastic sheeting to cover their plants, though I don’t recommend that. Plastic, when it touches the plant can conduct the cold to the parts of the plant it touches. Plastic also doesn’t breath, which can cause problems when the sun shines, causing the plants to over heat. “Frost Blanket” breathes, and does not conduct cold to the plant.
“Cloud Cover” is a liquid that is sprayed on the plant itself. The “Cloud Cover” coats the leaves, with an invisible barrier, that prevents moisture loss through the leaves. It is this moisture loss, on cold days that can cause damage to plants. “Cloud Cover” will provide a couple of degrees of protection if applied at least a few hours before you expect frost.
One novel, and pretty way to protect some plants are Christmas lights. Hanging a string of larger holiday lights, not the little twinkling ones, throughout the plant can give a couple of degrees protection. The lights can be used in conjunction with the “frost blanket, to provide even more protection.
Many gardeners love to test the limits of their ability and climate when growing plants. The tips we have discussed will help to prevent some of the disappointment you might experience, when that 20 year old jade plant makes the move with you to The Foothills.