Freezing Temperatures and How Your Plants Might React, Part 1

It seems fitting that in a year where we experienced record-breaking heat, we end with a dramatic snow event and sustained freezing temperatures. The plants in our landscape have experienced both ends of the extremes. Before we begin to look at the various types of winter injury, it is important to understand the different factors that impact how a plant responds to these types of events. Three major factors play into how plants respond to these types of events:

Weather

  • Length of a severely cold period
  • Time of year that the severe cold period occurs
  • Bright sunny days with frozen soil
  • Depth to which soil freezes and snow cover
  • Drying winds

Site/Microclimate Conditions

  • Distance from a large body of water or at a higher elevation
  • Solid fences, hedges or barriers that might trap cold air
  • Soil conditions, type and moisture availability before a freeze
  • Plants grown in soil, raised beds or containers
  • Windbreaks

Plants

  • Hardiness of a native vs. an exotic species
  • How well the plant is established
  • Conditions of the plant and associated stresses: dormant, partly dormant, insects, etc

We will continue monitoring your landscape for signs of stresses associated with these events. Also, look forward to our next resource which will help you understand different types of winter injury. In this next post, we will offer steps to take after a plant experiences winter injury and ways to avoid winter injury.

Augustyna Chan

December 27, 2021

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