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.

4 responses to “What Plants and Flowers Will Survive a Freeze?

  1. Great article Maria. Good need to know info.


  2. Did you lose the bird of paradise plant totally? I planted one after the freeze this year after a local nursery suggested it for zone 9.


    • First, let me apologize for being so late in replying to your question. I didn’t lose the Bird of Paradise, but it lost a lot of leaves. I’m in Zone 9a. Zone 9b is closer to the coast, both east and west of me, as well as south of me. If you are in 9a, and a nursery salesperson tells you something is OK for Zone 9, question them about whether it is safe 9a or 9b. Good luck with your Bird. I bought a white Bird because I wanted it to show up at night. I’m wishing I had also bought an orange Bird. Maybe later.


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