10 January 2017

Protecting Your Landscape in Cold Weather

While most winter days in South Walton are comparatively warm in the 50s and 60s, there are times when evening temperatures drop below freezing and the chill persists for days. During these hard freezes where daytime temperatures don’t rise into or above the 40s your landscape is at risk of sustaining damage from cold weather; however, there are ways you can protect most or all of your landscape from being ruined or damaged.

Winterizing Your Irrigation Pump

As noted, one night of freezing temperatures probably won’t cause any problems; however, hard freezes where temperatures plummet into the 20s or long periods of freezing temperatures can and will cause your irrigation system to freeze and to sustain damage. Thus, it’s a good idea to winterize your irrigation pump and to protect exposed piping and backflow prevention valves for when things get ice cold.

  • Protect exposed piping and backflow prevention valves with either foil insulation tape or foam wrap.
  • If you have an above-ground pump, you can either drain it or wrap the pump’s metal housing (not the pump motor).

Building a pump house is another strategy for protecting your irrigation pump; this would provide year-round protection from other elements as well. If you aren’t sure about what to do to winterize your irrigation system, call your landscape maintenance provider and let them help you with your questions.

What Plants to Protect from Freezing Temperatures

As with your irrigation system, your Northwest Florida landscape probably has a few plants that cannot bear the few times a year when temperatures freeze for days on end. Plants that need protecting are:

  • Citrus trees (especially young ones)
  • Some palms
  • Container plants
  • Certain herbs
  • Tropical flora such as hibiscus, oleander, bottlebrush, and crotons, to name a few.

To keep these plants from being killed by freeze or frost, take the following actions when freezing weather is imminent:

  • Use sheets, tarps, or blankets to cover vulnerable plants. Make sure the cover reaches the ground and fully enshrouds the plant or tree to keep heat in.
  • Use a light under the blanket to produce additional heat (if possible).
  • Bring potted plants indoors during the nighttime or when temperatures are at or below freezing.
  • With citrus trees, if it looks like it’s going to be a long freeze, it’s advised to pick ripe fruit as remaining fruit is at risk of being frozen and therefore spoiled entirely.
  • Add mulch to the ground surrounding palms to help prevent the ground or palm’s trunk from freezing as this will inhibit the palm’s water supply. 

After the temperatures rise above freezing, you should take off any plastic coverings used to protect the plants. If you used cloth covers, remove the blankets after temperatures reach the 50s. Leaving blankets or plastic coverings on beyond these points will confuse them into thinking seasons have changed and will make them even more susceptible during the next freeze.

What to Do When Cold Weather Damage is Unavoidable

Of course, there are times that even with your best efforts, plant damage or death is unavoidable. A sign that a plant has been fatally wounded is a yellowing, browning, and loss of all leaves when new growth is typical in spring or summer. At this point, it’s best to remove the plant and to replace it.

Ideally, your plants will survive the handful of frosty nights and hard freezes we experience in Northwest Florida each winter. By taking the right actions when temperatures rise and fall, you can keep your landscape alive and well all winter long.


Keep your landscape in tip top shape year-round by leaving the maintenance to the professionals at GPL Landscaping. We have over 10 year’s of experience in Northwest Florida coastal landscaping installation and maintenance. Contact us and learn about our services.

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