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Prepare for a cold snap

Prepare your plants for a potential unexpected cold snap:

Paul Gustin, who is a great contributing reader, just asked an important question.  Paul has noticed that the forecast calls for a cold snap and is asking for some advice to prepare and protect his plants.  The following is my standard strategy for cold weather.  However, if anyone has additional thoughts please let us know in the comments section.

  • In general, its always a good idea to have an extreme cold weather plan and supplies ready for those occasional extra cold days that may damage or kill a cherished plant.
  • Protective frost cloth/blanket is a great option to consider.  This is how I get many of my cold sensitive plants through the winter.
  • The Protec brand of frost plant cover,  and the Dalen brand of Harvest Guard Row Cover are pretty similar products.  They are both found on amazon and both have very good reviews.


  • When you are covering your plants with the frost cloth, it is important to cover the entire plant in a sealed enclosure.
  • I use use duck tape to make a pillow case- like sac out of the frost cloth material and it has worked excellent to cover and protect my trees.
  • Be sure that the trunk/bottom of the plant is also enclosed in this protective sac.
  • After the cold has passed, I roll them up and store them for the next season- that way they are always ready when needed.

About Thomas Osborne, MD

Dr. Osborne is a Harvard trained Radiologist and Neuroradiologist who loves to share his insight about medicine and gardening.


  1. Took your advice Tom but did not have time to order on line. Went to the local nursery on New Years Eve morning. The first clerk did not even know what I was talking about as we have not had frost warnings for some time now near the coast. Another, older guy, took me in the back of the nursery and we went thru some old cabinets where he found several rolls of plant covers similar to what you are buying from Amazon. He gave me a deal on a roll of it since the packaging was old and faded.
    Covered up my healing Meyer lemon semi-dwarf for the next 4 nights. Had frost on the lawn and the neighbors roof had ice on it each of those nights. No damage on the tree and it continues to try to heal getting a few new leaves.
    I did notice that another more mature semi-dwarf tree (Indian Sweet Lime) had some of the new flush show some damage from the frost but nothing major. I then read that Lime trees are more prone to frost damage than other citrus.
    The guy at the nursery recommended putting a large bucket of water under the cover with the tree during night. Did not do this but I guess this is some kind of an old growers trick or something?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Paul.
      Thanks for the feedback.
      Glad to hear that you were able to get some frost cloth/protection and that it helped your little Meyer.
      And yes, it is also my experience that Limes are extra sensitive to frost.
      Interesting story about the bucket of water… Wonder if anyone has actually tested that to see how beneficial it is.

  2. I know it’s a bit early to start thinking about frost in August but this is my first year raising tropical trees and I want to be prepared ahead of time. I read that in my area the greatest threat from frost occurs during the three week period from late December to mid January. Rather than checking the weather forecast each day, can I simply leave my most cold sensitive trees, such as mangos, covered for this period or would this practice be detrimental to the tree?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Good for you: You are ahead of the pack Lori.

      I am also on the same page with you about leaving the covers on.
      In general I always try to look for ways to make gardening hassle free, self sufficient and as automated as possible.
      If you get breathable cloth, this should not be a problem.
      However, considering we usually have more stormy weather in the winter, you will have to make sure that things dont get messed up from the wind etc.


  3. I remember when growing up in Santa Ana CA in the 50’s, with orange groves everywhere, when a freeze was forecasted out came the Smudge Pots burning either diesel or kerosene through the night to provide heat to the grove I imagine. Hundreds of them. I remember the smell. Would providing a light bulb under the frost cover be any use?

    • Thomas Osborne, MD

      Hey Richard.
      That is a great question.
      I have heard of some people doing exactly what you mentioned.
      Of course there is a risk of electrocution and short circuit when you move electric appliances outside in the elements.
      Also a risk of burning things like a frost cover too.
      So I wouldnt recommend it, but in theory it would elevate the temps.

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