Monthly Archives: January 2018

What Plants and Flowers Will Survive a Freeze?

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum magus)

I’ve been walking around my yard, checking on my garden after the hard freezes we had twice this month. The first time, I wasn’t able to cover my plants, because I had bronchitis, and my hubby was out of town on business. So my plants, tropicals and otherwise, were on their own.

Those yellow snapdragons (Antirrhinum magus) above, and the pink ones below are cool-season annuals. They came through with shining colors, after both freezes. I have already added a few more of them, and will definitely plant more of them next fall, either late November or early December here.


This next one is called firecracker plant  (Russella equisetiformis) because if you squeeze the tiny tubular blooms before they open, they make a little popping sound. It did fine during the first freeze, but suffered a bit the second time.

Firecracker Plant  (Russella equisetiformis)

Here in central Florida, 4 hours at or below 32 degrees, is considered a hard freeze. The first time it lasted about 5 hours. The 2nd time it was well below freezing for 8 hours, so my plants experienced more damage even though they were covered that time.

Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum)

 These Easter lilies (Lilium longiflorum) above, began coming up in late November, and they have multiplied like crazy. I’m amazed they didn’t succumb to the first freeze. I covered them the second time mostly with pine straw — they still look great. They are directly across a little stepping stone path from these pink snapdragons and the hot pink poinsettia  below. The second freeze hurt the poinsettia, but didn’t kill it.
The petunias (below) look great, too. Okay, some of the older blooms suffered a little, but the overall plants are healthy and thriving. The fact that they handled the cold so well should tell you that ordinary petunias (Petunia xatkinsiana) cannot take the summers here. I’m told the Wave petunias can take the heat, but I haven’t tried them yet. 

Petunias (Petunia xatkinsiana)

Another cool season crop that did very well is dianthus (Dianthus chinensis). These needed to be deadheaded before the freeze, and still do, so there is some brown foliage on them that was already there.

Dianthus (Dianthus chinensis)

What About Foliage Plants, You Ask?
Some foliage plants that did well were foxtail fern (Asparagus aethiopicus), variegated ginger (Alpina zerumbet variegata), and a native wild fern whose name I don’t know.

Foxtail Fern (Asparagus aethiopicus)

A caveat about the variegated ginger below:  this one was sheltered by a sort of alcove leading up to our front door. Another huge one that’s on the back of the house had little protection, and looks pretty bad.

Variegated Ginger (Alpina zerumbet variegata)

Some of My Plants Really Surprised Me
Some that surprised me were the Gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) with flower buds (already!), wax begonias (Semperflorens cultorum), white Encore azaleas — this one is Autumn Starlight, (Rhododendron roblem)  and even a couple of caladiums that were still hanging around. You can see the small white leaves of those caladiums peeping out from behind the large leaves of the variegated ginger in the bottom left corner of the photo above.

Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)

The wax begonias are very small. They are grown from cuttings I took in early December, and are finally thriving. I really did not believe they would survive the harsh weather.

Wax Begonias (Semperflorens cultorum)

The Autumn Starlight azaleas have little streaks of pink that don’t show up in this photo. They showed no damage after the first freeze, but we covered them the second time, and they still had a some damage to buds that were beginning to open. 

Encore azalea — this one is Autumn Starlight, (Rhododendron roblem)

The things that suffered most were canna lilies, coleus, hydrangea, and most of my poinsettias. 
Often freeze damage takes 2 or 3 days to show up. That happened with my Bird of Paradise and Split-leaf Philodendron. My decision to buy a Bird of Paradise was risky, as this plant is native to areas much farther south than my yard. If it dies, I will probably replace it with a native plant.
Florida has several hardiness zones, and within each zone are micro-climates, so we say, “Right plant, right place.” Keeping this in mind when choosing plants for your garden, will save you money, time, and labor. You will find micro-climates in your yard. Think about how your azaleas that are against a retaining wall or your house, and how the side closest to the wall blooms earlier than the rest of the plant. That plant probably blooms earlier than those not near a wall. Knowing where your micro-climates are will help you to put the right plant in the right place every time.

I Finally Made It!

After several years of wanting to take the Florida Master Gardener course, and having multiple conflicts, I was finally able to fit my schedule to theirs, and enroll in the 2017 class with 16 other gardeners extraordinaire. Before beginning this course, I had planned to use this blog as a journal of what I was learning as a way of sharing the knowledge, but I was so busy during that 3-month course, I didn’t have time to make any posts at all. It was hard work, but I loved every minute. Would I do it again? You bet I would!
Here are some of my classmates during a portion of our final exam where we had to plant some poinsettias, demonstrate proper pruning of trees and shrubs, etc. The written test was much tougher. As usual, I was behind the camera.

It’s All About Community Service
Each new class of graduates is considered to be interns for the first 12 months, during which time they must complete 75 hours of volunteer service and 10 hours of continuing education units (CEUs). After the first year, all Master Gardeners must earn 10 CEUs and complete no less than 35 volunteer hours annually. The next training class for our county is scheduled for spring of 2019.

GIBMP?  What’s That?

That acronym stands for “Green Industries Best Management Practices”. It’s extensive training in using and advising people on the proper use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. During the course, our class also received GIBMP training, and we are now GIBMP-certified by the State of Florida.
I will be sharing a lot of what I have learned in future blog posts. I hope you enjoy each of them. For now, here are just a few little tips:
  • Be sure to remove the coverings over your plants as soon as the temps are above freezing, especially if they are in the sun.
  • Resist the urge to remove freeze-damaged portions of plants for now. If we have another freeze, the damaged portions will shelter any tender new growth down below.
  • Your warm season grass is either dormant, or going dormant this time of year. This means its roots become much shorter, and it needs no irrigation. Do not apply nitrogen to dormant turf grass. Over time (several years), applying nitrogen to warm-season grass during winter will damage your lawn. Excessive nitrogen attracts and feeds chinch bugs. More on that later. For now, please just trust me.
  • Some folks like to over-seed dormant grass with winter rye grass. Please don’t do this. Dormant grass does not need water, but winter rye does — this  will damage your dormant grass. The rye seeds also get into your neighbors’ yards through wind and bird droppings. 
  • In the event of another hard freeze, do not use plastic bags or tarps to cover your tropical or tender plants — everywhere the plastic touches the plant there will be freeze damage. Overturned plastic pots that plants come in can be used to cover small plants because they don’t actually touch the plant. Placing a rock or brick on them will (a) keep the pot from blowing off in strong wind, and (b) cover the drainage hole, thus keeping out cold air.
Coming Up

I’ve been working on a blog post about which of my flowers and foliage plants survived our recent nights of freezing temps. It’s not quite done yet, but it will show photos of those that survived. Another post will show those that did not do well.  Hint:  the flowers that did best were the snapdragons.