How to keep your tropical plants alive (and thriving!) during a winter storm

How to keep your tropical plants alive (and thriving!) during a winter storm

Winter storms Finn and Heather have been brutal, have they not? Well, that's what people tell me anyway; I'm in Florida, so I'm part of the 20% of the United States that is not at or below freezing temperatures ... yet.

It's a good time to review what to do for your plants in the winter — whether they be mature and in the ground or babies still in the pot.

But before we get into it, know this: The roots are the most important part to keep from freezing. The upper foliage can die off, and the plant can still grow back in the spring. But if your roots freeze, the plant will be gone forever.

So, if you don't have a greenhouse, here's what you do:

1. Bring your plants inside

If they're still potted and they haven't grown too large yet, bringing your plants inside your house during cold snaps is the best option. A potted plant has significantly less insulation than one planted in the ground. The small amount of soil in your pot would be the only thing protecting the roots from the cold.

That said, don't rush to transplant in the ground for insulation purposes. A plant that hasn't sunk its roots deep into the soil won't fare the winter chills well. Wait until spring to transplant, so it'll have a year to get rooted before the next winter.

Rows of plants are covered with fleece to protect them from frost

2. Insulate the foliage, mulch the soil surface

I've heard many people deride those who cover their plants during the winter "because it's useless." Covering them could be useless if the sheet doesn't go all the way around the plant or blows off. But covering your plants is, indeed, useful.

Insulating with a non-woven fabric (unlike most blankets) helps trap heat from the soil surface and protects foliage from wind chills. If you are using a woven material, be sure to let the morning dew dry out in the morning or you could be signing your plant's death warrant.

Mulching provides another layer of insulation for the roots, which could prevent the roots from freezing — the ultimate goal.

A man prepares to mulch a flower garden to conserve moisture, control weeds, and insulate plants. Wearing gloves, he`s opening a bag of cypress mulch.

3. Light up their lives

During winter, natural light is as rare as a unicorn sighting. So, make sure your plants get their daily dose of vitamin D by placing them near a window where they can soak up whatever sunlight is available. If your home is darker, you might want to consider investing in some grow lights.

4. Water them, but don't drown them

While it's important to keep your plants hydrated, don't go overboard with the watering can. In winter, plants tend to grow slower, which means they don't need as much water as they do in the warmer months. Stick your finger in the soil to check if it's dry before watering. If it feels like a damp sponge, hold off on the H2O. Your plants will appreciate the chance to dry out a bit.

5. Show them some love

Lastly, don't forget to shower your plants with love and attention. Talk to them, sing to them, or even dance around them (if you're feeling particularly festive). Your plants may not understand your words, but they'll definitely appreciate the positive vibes. Plus, it's a great excuse to have a one-sided conversation without anyone judging you.

So, there you have it! With these winter plant care tips up your sleeve, you'll be able to keep your leafy friends happy and thriving even when it's colder than an ice cream truck's freezer outside. Remember, a little extra TLC goes a long way, and your plants will reward you with their lush greenery and vibrant blooms. Happy planting!

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