Monthly Archives: January 2016

Hard Freeze in Florida — Some Do’s and Don’ts

Variegated Ginger - mlm

We’re expecting a hard freeze tonight. In this area, a hard freeze is considered to be 4 or more hours with temperatures at or below 32 degrees. Some areas are predicted to have these temps for up to 11 hours tonight. Yikes!

Throughout our neighborhood and those nearby, I have seen covered plants in the middle of the day. Be sure to remove the coverings early in the day, even if you will need to re-cover them again that night.

The Don’ts are often more important than the Do’s, so I’m sharing the Don’ts first:


Don’t use plastic bags. Everywhere the plastic touches the plant, you will have freeze damage.

Don’t leave the plants covered the next day. Remove the coverings as soon as the sun shines on the plants. If left covered on a bright, sunny day, the plants will bake.


Do cover your tender plants as early in the evening as you can, in order to trap warm (okay, less cold) air underneath the covering. If plants are in the shade, go ahead and cover them before temperatures drop. It will be easier on you, too.

Do use cloth coverings or cardboard boxes. If you are expecting rain, forget the cloth coverings. The wet cloth will cling to the plant and freeze, sticking to the leaves.

There are such beautiful tropical plants here, and not all landscapers will tell customers which plants are not cold hardy, and should not be planted here. For example the Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) and the Robellini Palm, a.k.a., Pygmy Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii).

Yes, those of you who know me, know I have Queen Palms in my front yard. We bought them before we knew any better. This area is full of them, so who knew? The guy who sold them to us, that’s who.

Good luck with your tender plants tonight. Now get out there and cover them as soon as the sun is off of them.

Wordless Wednesday 1-20-16

Camelia - white-pink tipped - mlm c@


Warm Season Grass Goes Dormant in Cold Weather

This is written especially for my friends who have moved from northern states and Canada, and are not accustomed to grass that goes dormant in winter. The type of Zoysia in the lawns in newer sections of this town was developed by horticulturalists at the University of Florida to have deep roots in order to survive the hot, often dry summers. Still, it is a warm season turf-grass that will go dormant in very cold weather. This is my neighbor’s grass after only 2 or 3 cold nights. I chose the greenest section for the photo, but the very beginnings of a move toward the dormancy can be seen in the brown tips on some of the blades.

Green Grass - mlm c@

Do not fertilize this grass in the winter months. It needs a period of rest in order to perform at its best during warm weather.

Until the last couple of weeks, it has been so very unseasonably warm around here, we may have forgotten about the changes really cold weather can bring to our lawns and plants. The local meteorologists say we will be seeing some drastic changes very soon, so I thought I would take time to share a little tidbit about warm-season turf grass:  it goes dormant in cold weather. That is, it turns brown. Not to worry. It’s normal.

Grass in Seasonal Transition - mlm c@

This is Zoysia turf grass is going dormant. Here, the grass rarely goes past this partial-dormant state, because our cold-spells don’t last long enough.

The photo above (taken in my yard during February of 2015)  is the closest to dormancy your grass is likely to get here in central Florida. Rest assured, in 12-16 weeks, we will probably begin complaining about the heat again.

Last year when we had some extremely cold weather for a few days, the zoysia and bermuda lawns began going into the dormancy typical in cold weather. Probably because of the mottled appearance normally seen when dormancy has begun, but is not complete, a few of my neighbors who hail from the northern tier of states thought a fungus had invaded their lawns. They are accustomed to grass that stays green all year.

If  you see turf  with the mottled green/brown appearance as shown in the photo above, don’t be concerned, it’s not dying. As soon as warm weather returns, it will green-up again. Do not fertilize this grass in the winter months. It needs a period of rest in order to perform at its best during warm weather.

Cool-season grasses look great in the fall, winter, and spring, but suffer during the heat of summer. In the South, the reverse is true. Warm-season grass looks great in spring, summer, and fall, but in cold weather, it turns a beige color.

If that dormant grass is weed-free, it can appear to be a beautiful beige carpet, but most lawns have some weeds which ruins the appearance. You are highly unlikely to see a beige lawn around here, as it doesn’t stay cold enough long enough for our grasses to go completely dormant.