This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

December 15, 2015

How to protect your tropical plants from the cold

If you have tropical plants, such as cannas, here in the Phoenix, Arizona area (or any desert area that gets below freezing in the winter), it's best to give them some protection. No, it doesn't snow in Phoenix, and compared to where I grew up, in Minneapolis, the winter temperatures really don't get all that low. But anything below 32 degrees F (freezing) can damage, or kill, your tropical plants overnight. So this is what you should do:

• Keep an eye on the overnight lows. Overnight is the dangerous time for your tropical plants. The desert air is extremely dry, and when it gets cold, it can really hurt your plants. So look for the number 32, and if it's gonna get colder than that...

• Put out frost clothes. Old sheets will do. You don't need to go spend a bunch of money on expensive "frost cloths". Just don't ever, ever, use plastic! My tender tropicals are all in my backyard, near where I can get to them quickly, drape them gently at night, and pull the cloths off at sunrise. Out in my front yard are tougher plants, that don't mind the cold as much.

• Stop watering. Your watering system should be turned off until the low temperatures are consistently above 32 (freezing), which here in the Phoenix area is until late January. You can go out and hand-water your petunias (which is what I'm gonna today when it warms up a bit), but the automatic system is off.

If it's gonna rain, you don't need to put out frost cloths. It's those dry, cold nights that are so bad for your tropical plants. So, dig out those old sheets, and keep them handy!
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