How Do Drastic Changes in Temperature Affect My Landscape Plants?

Frequently Asked Questions

Landscape vs. Drastic Temperature Changes  

How does drastic changes in temperature affect my landscape plants?  

Cooler temperatures in the fall trigger plants to reduce growth and store energy for the winter.  As temperatures get closer to freezing, plants stop growing and become dormant.  By becoming dormant, plants are able to withstand cold temperatures better. A sudden cold spell in the late fall can do more damage than sustained cold temperatures in winter.  

What happens if there is a sudden warm spell in winter after my plants are dormant?   

Many plants need a chilling period before growth starts in the spring.  Some need a longer chilling period compared to others. Plants requiring a shorter chilling period may resume growth during winter warm period and be injured when cold temperatures return.  Native plants generally don’t break dormancy and get injured.  

Can drastic changes in temperature harm my plants?  

Wide temperature fluctuations can be harmful to plants during the winter.  Warm days followed by freezing nights can lead to bark injury of thin smooth-barked trees.  Freezing and thawing of the soil can result in the heaving of shallow-rooted plants. Extended warm periods during the winter can trigger some plants to bloom out of season.  When freezing temperatures return, the plants may be injured.  These plants may be bloom again, but later than they normally do.  A warm winter may also lead to higher insect populations during the upcoming spring and summer. 

How can I protect my plants during drastic temperature changes in the winter?  

There is not much we can do, but to let Mother Nature take her course.  We can apply anti desiccants, use burlap screens, heat pots, etc. to protect plants during cold spells but there is little to be done when the temperatures get warm during the winter months. 

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