While residents enjoy the cooler temperatures of the Phoenix winter, many plants suffer frost damage when not properly protected.

Many Arizona residents will tell you that they long for the pleasant and typically mild climate that we enjoy during the winter months. While the area is known for extreme temperatures and dry heat in the summertime, pleasant winter temps are very much a welcome change for anyone who lives here year-round. But along with those winter months of sunny, snow-free days, we do experience some nights that dip down to freezing or below. And on those few nights, your plants can suffer. Knowing how to protect and maintain your landscape during the winter months correctly will ensure their beauty for the coming year.

We Do Have A Frost Season In Phoenix!

This open landscape will be more susceptible to frost damage than a more protected suburban location. Proper plant selection is critical to avoiding the frustration of frost damage each winter.

In general, you can expect to see some frost at your home between late November and the first week of April. Many factors can influence when and how often your landscape must endure an evening frost. Your specific location in the valley, the elevation of your property, how open the area is, the amount of pavement near your yard, and even the population density will all have an impact on how often you will experience frost in your yard. When a frost warning is issued for your neighborhood, it is vital that you take action to protect your plants from excessive heat loss and frost damage.

Tips To Know About Cold Weather

These more delicate plants enjoy a protected location and residual heat from the pavers and masonry planters. This plant location decreases the risk of frost damage and the loss of plants in the winter months.
  • The coldest part of every day is just before daybreak
  • During the day, it is essential to uncover plants to allow the sun to warm the soil and plants naturally
  • Cloudy nights provide insulation from the cold
  • Clear nights hold the highest potential for lower temperatures and frost damage to plants
  • Wind often contributes to heat loss and frost damage to your landscape
  • Most yards experience temperatures about 5 degrees colder than the temperature predictions provided by the media
  • Cold air flows downward, so plants in lower areas of your yard are at higher risk for frost damage

Good Planning Can Help To Limit Frost Damage

Properly covering plants all the way to the ground will provide the best results. Heat will rise from the ground to warm the plant overnight.

During the design phase of your landscape is when you really need to begin thinking about the prevention of frost damage. Choosing hardy plants is the best way to avoid frost damage. This is also an excellent way to prevent spending an hour each evening covering delicate plants and then another hour the next morning uncovering them. And if you are fond of some of the more delicate flora, try to locate these more delicate specimens with southern or western exposure to allow for more natural warming from sunlight. Also, remember that patios, rocks, and block walls all absorb and radiate heat, which will help to warm your less frost tolerant plant selections.

The Proper Way To Tuck Your Plants In To Avoid Frost Damage

Covering just the top of a plant will not provide enough insulation to prevent frost damage. The cover needs to allow heat from the surrounding ground to warm the plant continually.

The first critical step in protecting your landscape from frost damage is to select the correct covering. Frost cloth is sold at many local nurseries and big box stores and is rates to protect plants down to about 30 degrees on average. Some of the more expensive brands will provide added insulation down to about 20 degrees. Many residents also use old sheets or blankets to cover plants.

What is most important to understand is that plants do not produce any heat on their own. You are covering your plants to trap the residual heat and humidity, which will insulate and protect them. So drape the coverings down to the ground for the best results. The rock in your yard absorbs heat all day and is the best source of warmth for your plants as night falls.

Once the daytime temperature reaches about 50 degrees, it is crucial to remove the coverings to allow your plants to be warmed naturally by the sunlight. Leaving plants covered for days is never a good idea and can even cause some damage to them.

Finally, never cover your plants with plastic of any kind. This material does not breath and will freeze, increasing the frost damage that you were trying to prevent.

Other Important Information

While a small amount of frost damage usually is not fatal for most plants, it can become unsightly. However, it would be best if you avoided the temptation to trim off any frost damage immediately. This damage portion of the plant will help to insulate undamaged areas in the event of additional cold temperatures.

Also, be sure to keep your plants well-watered to allow them to remain as healthy and robust as possible during the cold period. This also helps to keep plants warm at night because moist soil will absorb and retain more warmth than dry soil. This allows for more radiant heat to rise from the ground during the night and keep your plants warm and healthy.

If you have questions about how to care for your Arizona plants during the winter or would like to learn more about selecting cold-tolerant plants for your landscape, call the pros at UNIQUE Landscape at 480-969-1911 or click here to set up a free consultation. You can also click here to learn more about caring for your spa and swimming pool this winter