Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
December, 2013
Regional Report

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Move succulents in pots under cover for frost protection, and keep them barely moist all winter long.

Preventing Frost Damage

We're officially into our frost-possible weather zone (Thanksgiving through January 31), so here are some suggestions for ways to lessen the likelihood of extensive damage should a hard frost hit.

Wrap trunks in newspaper, and cover the foliage with plastic sheeting. Support the plastic away from the foliage, as it will conduct the frost damage to the leaves it touches. Also, a low-wattage (40W or so) light bulb hung in the center of the tree (or several in larger trees) should keep it snug enough over really cold nights. Cold soil and dry winds can stress citrus trees, causing the rinds of ripening fruit to develop bleached blotches and leaves to turn yellow where the sun strikes.

Cacti and Succulents
Container plants should be moved under cover for protection from cold and rain. Remember to water them each month, though, since that's all they'll get. Even so, they're dormant and won't need much water -- and no food.

Tender Subtropicals
Bougainvilleas, fuchsias, and hibiscus must be covered when frost threatens. Use large cardboard boxes, or drape old sheets or tarps on stakes over them. Keep the plastic away from the foliage or the leaves may freeze more readily.

Because cold air keeps evaporation down, plants will need less water in winter than in warmer seasons. But plant roots are not very efficient at bringing in moisture during cold weather, so be sure plants get well watered at least once a month. If you're unsure if water is needed, dig down 6 inches or so; if it's heavy and gummy and you can squeeze it into a ball, don't water; if it's light and crumbly and a fistful falls apart, do water.

Even if frost damage does occur, don't prune plants until they leaf out and you can see precisely what damage occurred. You'll be surprised just how much of those scraggly twigs are alive after all!

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