October 18, 2021

How to Protect Plants from Frost: Coverage That Works

The area of Cleveland, Ohio, is no stranger to unpredictable weather patterns — from a late spring frost to an early fall hard frost, and everything in between — that can ultimately threaten our potted flowers and landscaping plants.

The good news is that even when the weather is unpredictable, you can protect your Cleveland plants and flowers from frost. All you need is a little time to prepare and an awareness of the chilly weather ahead.

Which Plants Are Most Susceptible to Frost Damage?

Softwoods, actively blooming plants and potted plants are most likely to be damaged by frost. The greatest threat of frost usually occurs overnight when the temperature drops enough to freeze the moisture on the plant’s leaves and buds. Visible signs of frost damage usually occur within two to three days and include browned, mushy leaves and buds.

damaged plant from frost

Plant damaged by frost. Source: Getty Images

To protect your new plants, trees and flowers from frost and freezing weather, you’ll need to cover them or if you’re able to, bring them inside your home or garage to prevent freezing. In the case of your potted plants or potted color arrangements, simply bring them indoors until the freezing temperatures have subsided.

What Materials Should You Use for Plant Frost Protection?

Plastic can be used to protect plants from frost, but it’s not the best or most effective material. In fact, the horticultural experts here at Green Impressions actually recommend against it. Plastic materials such as vinyl and traditional camping tarps aren’t breathable, causing moisture to get trapped inside.

Depending on its thickness, the plastic can actually stick to the leaves and when the material is removed in the morning, the beautiful plants you expect to see will be stuck to the plastic sheeting. And if the temperature decreases enough, the increased moisture trapped underneath the non-breathing plastic will present a greater threat to the health of your plants and increase the likelihood of an early demise. 

As an alternative to plastic for frost coverage, Green Impressions recommends fabrics made of natural materials like a cotton or linen towel or blanket, an open burlap bag, or even newspaper. This is especially true in the case of those clients who live along the Northeast Ohio lakeshore in Avon, Avon Lake, Lorain, Bay Village, Lakewood, and Sheffield where the humidity from the lake is greater.

blankets over plantsUse of fabrics to protect plants.

These natural fabrics allow moisture to escape but still protect your potted plants and landscaping flowers from inclement weather by preventing the freezing air from coming in direct contact with the moisture under the fabric and on the plants themselves. Meanwhile, bed sheets work well for covering large plants and shrubs, as well as young sprouts, and newspaper can be used on low-growing foliage, but won’t stay on top of large plants as well.

There are coverings that can be purchased specifically for the purpose of protecting your plants from frost and freezing weather conditions. While these pre-designed coverings may be more visually appealing than the quick impromptu methods referenced above, all of these options work well to protect your trees, plants and landscaping flowers from frost. 

(Note: In the event that coverings do not effectively protect your plants from frost, the best option is to let nature run its course and restrategize your plant frost coverage tactics for the next year.)

The Value of Investing in Protective Frost Coverage for Plants

Typically, the more established a plant is, the better it will fare if you are unable to protect your potted plants and flowers. If you have vulnerable plants such as ones that were recently planted and would be expensive to replace, it’s best to try and protect them from frost damage. 

As the temperature decreases, the moisture in the air condenses to dew, which then freezes when the temperature dips to 32℉ on the plant surfaces. At 32℉, damage to most plants may be minimal and only affect a small amount of leaves. However, if the temperature drops far enough for the plant cells to freeze, non-hardy plants will die.

What’s important to remember is that frost can occur at unpredictable times of the year in Cleveland, Ohio. So it’s especially important to pay attention to the local weather forecast for mentions of a chance of frost or freezing conditions and take precautions to protect your backyard garden or potted plants. After all, you may be able to extend the beauty and growing season of your flowers and landscaping plants by a few weeks or even a couple of months if you are able to protect them through a single early frost!

(Tip: Wondering when’s the best time to remove the coverings? As the temperatures become more moderate and the snow melts, you can take off the plant coverings.)

Turn to Green Impressions for Your Landscape Maintenance Needs

At Green Impressions, we’re proud to help Northeast Ohio homeowners keep their landscapes healthy and beautiful year-round. With customizable maintenance packages available, you can get the exact services you need to keep your landscape in the best shape possible, without the time and inconvenience of DIY methods. 

To get the conversation started, request a free consultation with Green Impressions.


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