published Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Lea: Short freezes shouldn’t kill winter plantings

By Pat Lea

Q. Will short freezes kill my newly planted pansies?

A. This is a topical question because of the unusual nature of our weather these days. Pansies can usually last all winter in our climate, but short hard freezes can be hard on them. Winter-hardy flowers and plants in our area can survive short freezes because the soil itself does not freeze. While upper foliage and flowers may sustain damage and shrivel or wilt, the root system is still alive and healthy. The roots can produce new foliage and flowers as the temperatures and sunshine restore the plant.

The best way to keep your winter-blooming plants in good shape is to provide cover for them. A sheet, a layer of freeze cloth or a blanket tossed lightly over the plants will hold soil heat in and prevent cold from penetrating to the roots.

Keep some old covers ready for these infrequent hard freezes and your blooms will survive. Lay covers over plants in the ground and anchor with rocks or pins. Group pots together and cover and wrap the entire pot. You can add a bamboo stake to hold the cover up to prevent crushing taller plants.

If your pansies, geraniums, snapdragons or other plants seem to have wilted thoroughly, you should take some measures to help them out. Freeze-blasted blooms should be snipped off, along with any severely wilted foliage.

Watering your plants well after the frost is over and perhaps a shot of fertilizer when warmer weather returns should produce a new crop of foliage and flowers. Don’t give up on them as soon as you see damage. As long as the roots have not frozen, they may recover. Keep your plants watered sparingly (not soaking wet) over the cold season and your plants will survive.

Contact Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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